Nutritional Information for Beets
Beets are full of compounds that help fight a multitude of diseases. The phytonutrients in beets act as antioxidants that work to boost the immune system and create detoxifying enzymes. They help draw toxins out of the body, removing excess hormones and cholesterol by their ability to bind bile acids, compounds needed to absorb fat. Deep red or yellow beets are sweet and delicious when cooked or eaten raw. Try growing your own, if able, for the best flavor. Borscht is a common European soup using beets as the main ingredient. Check out Blue Cure’s version of Beet Soup using cashew cream!
Benefits of Beets
Cancer Prevention Benefits
Shredded beets have been tested in vitro studies against many different types of cancer cell lines. Researchers basically tested what happened to the rate of cancer growth when dripping certain foods over different cancer cells. When adding beets, tumor cell growth decreased by more than 50% in prostate, breast, stomach, lung, and pancreatic cancer cells. For brain tumors, beets knocked out cancer cell growth by more than 90%! One way to tell how well a phytonutrient works as an antioxidant is by measuring cellular antioxidant activity, rather than just looking at how the phytochemical stacks-up against an oxidative stressor, like a known carcinogen. Dr. Greger with NutritionFacts.org says it good to know what happens in a biological system, like the human body. “Sure, some phytonutrient may be a great antioxidant outside the cell, but what if it can’t get inside the cell? That’s where we need it!”
More human trials are needed to see how beets may reduce cancer risk, but for now, we do know beets have cancer-fighting properties (fiber, folate, vitamins, antioxidants) and there is no harm in eating them. The only thing that may happen if eating lots of beets is a change in urine or stool color. Pinkish pee and poop just means the beets are working. No need to visit the doctor, just enjoy the neat and somewhat gross and cool biochemical reaction.
Men's Health Benefits
Beets are rich in nitrates, which the body then converts to nitric oxide. Cells that line the inner intestine and other organs are called endothelial cells. The power of nitric oxide in the blood enhances endothelial cell function, allowing arteries to “open-up” for better blood flow. This can help a number of folks. For example, athletes may improve their performance on the field. Those with hypertension may have a significant drop in blood pressure. Other vegetables high in nitrates can have a similar effect, it’s just that beets literally “beat” out every other vegetable tested! Studies have shown drinking beet juice may dramatically reduces blood pressure, too.
As mentioned earlier, beets seem to play a protective role by helping to bind bile acids and removing them from the body. Bile acids are made from cholesterol and needed to absorb fat. Some bile acids are always absorbed back into the body, but too many can be harmful. Beets have an incredible ability to hang onto some of that bile acid and show it to the exits (stool). Steaming, as a method of cooking, has been found to improve the binding ability of beets. Excess cholesterol and bile acids and/or hormones have all been associated with greater cancer and disease risk. In older folks, beets and vegetables high in nitrates have been associated with increased blood flow in certain regions of the brain.
Ways to Use Beets
- Peel and boil until soft. Enjoy warm or cold.
- Wash and dice the beets. Roast with other root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips.
- Wash and chop the better. Grill until tender.
- Blend cooked and chilled beets into smoothies, try adding with berries and/or coconut milk.
- Add beets to homemade veggies burgers.
- Toss cooked or raw beets into salads or add to sandwiches.
- Make beet soup by blending cooked beets with water, vegetable broth, or coconut milk and spices.
- Roast beets with potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions, and Brussels sprouts.
Resources for Beets
American Institute for Cancer Research: www.aicr.org
Nutrition Facts: www.nutritionfacts.org
Physicians Committee: www.pcrm.org
USDA Nutrient Database: Beets
- Webb AJ, Patel N, Loukogeorgakis S, et al. Acute blood pressure lowering, vasoprotective, and antiplatelet properties of dietary nitrate via bioconversion to nitrite. Hypertension. 2008;51(3):784-90.
- Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Contaminants in the Food. Nitrate in Vegetables. The EFSA Journal. 2008;689:1–79.
- Boivin D, Lamy S, Lord-Dufour S, et al. Antiproliferative and antioxidant activities of common vegetables: A comparative study. Food Chem. 2009;112(2):374-80.
- Song W, Derito C, Liu M, He X, Dong M, Liu RH. Cellular antioxidant activity of common vegetables. J Agric Food Chem. 2010;58(11):6621-9.
- Ferreira L, Behnke BJ. A toast to health and performance! Beetroot juice lowers blood pressure and the O2 cost of exercise. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2011;110(3):585-6.
- Presley TD, Morgan AR, Bechtold E, et at. Acute effect of a high nitrate diet on brain perfusion in older adult. Nitric Oxide. 2011;24(1):34-42.