What’s more, they’re delicious and easy to add to your diet in dishes like balsamic roasted beets, hummus, fries, and salads, among many others.
Here are 9 evidence-based benefits of beets, plus some tasty ways to increase your intake.
1. Many nutrients and few calories
Beets boast an impressive nutritional profile.
They’re low in calories yet high in valuable vitamins and minerals. In fact, they contain a bit of almost all of the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
Here’s an overview of the nutrients found in a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of boiled beetroot:
Beets are particularly rich in folate, a vitamin that plays a key role in growth, development, and heart health.
They also contain a good amount of manganese, which is involved in bone formation, nutrient metabolism, brain function, and more.
Plus, they’re high in copper, an important mineral required for energy production and the synthesis of certain neurotransmitters.
2. Could help keep your blood pressure in check
Beets have been well studied for their ability to decrease elevated blood pressure levels, which are a major risk factor for heart disease.
In fact, some studies show that beetroot juice could significantly lower levels of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
The effect appears to be greater for systolic blood pressure, which is the pressure when your heart contracts, rather than diastolic blood pressure, which is the pressure when your heart is relaxed. Also, raw beets may exert a stronger effect than cooked ones.
These blood-pressure-lowering effects are likely due to the high concentration of nitrates in this root vegetable. In your body, dietary nitrates are converted into nitric oxide, a molecule that dilates blood vessels and causes blood pressure levels to drop.
Beets are also a great source of folate. Although research has turned up mixed results, several studies suggest that increasing your intake of folate could significantly lower blood pressure levels.
However, keep in mind that beets’ effect on blood pressure is only temporary. As such, you need to consume them regularly to experience heart-health benefits over the long term.
3. Can improve athletic performance
Several studies suggest that dietary nitrates like those found in beets may enhance athletic performance.
Nitrates appear to affect physical performance by improving the efficiency of mitochondria, which are responsible for producing energy in your cells.
According to one review, beetroot juice could enhance endurance by increasing how long it takes to become exhausted, boosting cardiorespiratory performance, and improving efficiency for athletes.
Promisingly, beet juice has also been shown to improve cycling performance and increase oxygen use by up to 20%.
It’s important to note that blood nitrate levels peak within 2–3 hours of consuming beets or their juice. Therefore, it’s best to consume them a couple of hours before training or competing to maximize their potential benefits.
4. May help fight inflammation
Beets contain pigments called betalains, which possess a number of anti-inflammatory properties.
This could benefit several aspects of health, as chronic inflammation has been associated with conditions like obesity, heart disease, liver disease, and cancer.
One study in 24 people with high blood pressure found that consuming 8.5 ounces (250 mL) of beet juice for 2 weeks significantly reduced several markers of inflammation, including C-reactive protein (CRP) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a).
Plus, an older 2014 study in people with osteoarthritis — a condition that causes inflammation in the joints — showed that betalain capsules made with beetroot extract reduced pain and discomfort.
Beetroot juice and extract have also been shown to reduce kidney inflammation in rats injected with toxic, injury-causing chemicals.
Still, more studies in humans are needed to determine whether enjoying beets in normal amounts as part of a healthy diet may provide the same anti-inflammatory benefits.
5. May improve digestive health
One cup of beetroot contains 3.4 grams of fiber, making beets a good fiber source.
Fiber bypasses digestion and travels to the colon, where it feeds friendly gut bacteria and adds bulk to stools.
This can promote digestive health, keep you regular, and prevent digestive conditions like constipation, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), and diverticulitis.
Moreover, fiber has been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including colon cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
6. May support brain health
Mental and cognitive functions naturally decline with age, which can increase the risk of neurodegenerative disorders like dementia.
The nitrates in beets may improve brain function by promoting the dilation of blood vessels and thus increasing blood flow to the brain.
Particularly, beets have been shown to improve blood flow to the frontal lobe of the brain, an area associated with higher level thinking like decision making and working memory.
Furthermore, a study in people with type 2 diabetes found that reaction time during a cognitive function test was 4% faster in those who consumed 8.5 ounces (250 mL) of beetroot juice daily for 2 weeks, compared with a control group.
However, more research is needed to determine whether beets could be used to improve brain function and reduce the risk of dementia among the general population.
7. May have some anti-cancer properties
Beetroot contains several compounds with cancer-fighting properties, including betaine, ferulic acid, rutin, kaempferol, and caffeic acid.
Although more research is needed, test-tube studies have shown that beetroot extract can slow the division and growth of cancer cells.
Several other studies have found that having higher blood levels of betaine may be associated with a lower risk of developing cancer.
However, it’s important to note that most studies on the topic have used isolated compounds rather than beetroot. Therefore, further research on beetroot consumption as part of a well-rounded diet and cancer risk is needed.
8. May help balance energy intake
Beets have several nutritional properties that could make them a great addition to a balanced diet.
First, they’re low in fat and calories but high in water, which can help balance your energy intake. Increasing your intake of low calorie foods like this root vegetable has also been associated with weight loss.
Furthermore, despite their low calorie content, they contain moderate amounts of protein and fiber. Both of these nutrients can make it easier to achieve and maintain a moderate weight.
The fiber in beets may also support digestive health, decrease appetite, and promote feelings of fullness, thereby reducing your overall calorie intake.
Additionally, by including them in smoothies or other recipes, you can easily increase your intake of fruits and vegetables to improve the quality of your diet.
9. Delicious and easy to include in your diet
Beets are not only nutritious but also incredibly delicious and easy to incorporate into your diet.
You can juice, roast, steam, or pickle them. For a convenient option, you can purchase them precooked and canned. You can even enjoy them raw, either sliced thinly or grated.
Choose beets that feel heavy for their size with fresh, unwilted green leafy tops still attached, if possible.
Because dietary nitrates are water-soluble, it’s best to avoid boiling beets if you’d like to maximize their nitrate content.
Here are some delicious and interesting ways to add more beets to your diet: