Beets are one of those vegetables people either love or hate, which is too bad because they offer amazing health benefits. If you’ve never been a huge fan of beets, perhaps after reading today’s article, you’ll change your mind.
Beets are unique because of their rich combination of betalain pigments, which provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support. Beets also contain the powerful antioxidants manganese and vitamin C. They are also loaded with beneficial fiber, and the beet greens are an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin C, copper, potassium, manganese, vitamin B2, magnesium, vitamin E, fiber and calcium.
Here are 7 reasons why you should be eating more beets!
1. They Can Lower Blood Pressure
One study found that that patients who drank a glass of fresh beet juice had reduced blood pressure in less than 6 hours. Other studies have shown that patients who drank beet juice experienced improvements in blood vessel dilation capacity and their artery stiffness reduced. This benefit comes from the nitrates in beets, which are converted into nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide helps relax and dilate blood vessels, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure.
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2. Improves Muscle Performance
That nitric oxide I just mentioned? It’s also great for improving exercise and muscle performance. Nitric oxide has the ability to reduce oxygen expense. This is important not only to athletes, but also to elderly patients and those with metabolic, respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Need more energy? Eat more beets!
3. Fights Inflammation
The betaine found in beets has been associated with lower levels of several inflammatory markers, including C reactive protein, interleukin-6, cyclo-oxygenase enzymes (COX-1 and COX-2) and tumor necrosis factor. As mentioned earlier, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of beets come from phytonutrients called betalains, which are not heat stable. With this in mind, raw beets and beet juice is the way to go.
4. Liver and Detoxification Support
We’re all exposed to high levels of chemicals on a daily basis. Things like pesticides, water contaminants, food preservatives, heavy metals, which we get through our food, water, air, and home products. And guess where all of these toxins end up? That’s right, they get stored in our liver.
The betalin pigments in beets support the detoxification process of our liver, which involves converting fat soluble metabolic waste and toxins into water soluble by-products that can be easily eliminated through the skin, kidneys and bowels.
5. Anti-Cancer Properties
Animal studies have shown that beet extract has the ability to reduce multi-organ tumor formations. It is currently being studied for its potential benefits in treating human cancers such as pancreatic, breast, and prostate.
Researchers at Wake Forest University have found that drinking beet juice can improve oxygenation to the brain, which can slow or altogether halt the progression of dementia in older adults. Another reason to start eating beets today!
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7. Eases Constipation
I mentioned earlier that beets are very high in fiber, so they are a great food to incorporate to get things… moving along.
The Healthiest Way of Cooking Beets
We’ve learned that the powerful betalains in beets are diminished by heat, so to get the full benefits I’ve just mentioned, best to use beets in their raw form. This can be done easily by juicing beets or adding them to your smoothies.
Having said that, not everyone enjoys the earthy taste of raw beets, so if you are going to cook them, the best way is to steam them for 15 minutes. This will maximize their nutrition and their flavor, while protecting their health benefits. Like potatoes, you know beets are cooked enough when you can easily stick a fork in them.
You’ll want to peel your beets and you can easily do it by rubbing a paper towel over the skin – it will come right off. Wear kitchen gloves so your hands don’t get stained. Also, avoid slicing on wooden chopping blocks because those will become stained as well.
You may also roast beets, just be sure to roast for less than an hour (20-50 minutes is usually enough depending on size). Simply peel and slice beets into bite-size pieces, coat evenly with olive oil and salt and pepper and pop them in the oven. Roasted beets are a great side dish in the fall and winter.
Beets can also be used much like carrot and apples, as in you can easily grate them and add them to muffins and other baked recipes. You can also grate them over a salad or into a burger patty to give it a healthy and tasty kick!
A final but important word about eating more beets. You may notice after you’ve upped your beet intake that your urine turns pink. This happens in some people and is nothing to worry about. Consider it a friendly reminder that you are doing something healthy for your body!