Are beets good for me?
Beets and beet juices have recently jumped to the forefront of the superfoods list, and sometimes the sound bytes “sound” good, but frequently we don’t really understand the science behind the claim. Beets contain a compound called nitrate that is converted to nitric oxide (NO) by the time it reaches the stomach. This process begins in the mouth saliva, and researchers have found that mouthwash can actually negate the beneficial effects. (Sidenote, try to remember when someone offers you a shortcut, that you often miss a critical step of the journey!)
Research shows that increasing dietary consumption of nitrate containing foods can increase blood levels of NO that can have a beneficial impact on blood pressure and exercise tolerance. That means that eating beets, lettuce, celery, broccoli and other leafy greens can improve your blood pressure and endurance during exercise. Studies show that oxygen consumption and utilization is improved with increased NO, and that translates to improved your cardiovascular and aerobic systems by eating more beets.
How do I include this safely into my routine?Incorporating beets into your daily routine would be prudent, unless you are prone to kidney stones (the oxalates in beets may increase production of stones in those who have a history of kidney stones, but not typically in individuals who have no history of stones.) Include 2 beets daily, and endurance athletes may include 3-4 beets daily. If you are concerned with blood sugar management you may want to avoid, limit or eat in combination with protein and fat to minimize a sugar spike.
What to ExpectWe will only absorb approximately 25% of consumed nitrate and the rest is lost through urine and typically will tint it red or pink. Don’t panic!
Eat beets for good health, but eating one healthy food doesn’t a healthy lifestyle make. I recommend including beets as part of a healthy lifestyle that is rich in all vegetables.