Seasonal Produce Spotlight: The Benefits of Beets

Beets are a nutritional powerhouse that pack a huge punch. If you’re eating a healthy, well-rounded whole foods diet, they should be making a regular appearance on your plate or in your glass. The nutritional benefits of beets are many and varied, and you don’t want to be missing out.

Photo of beets being washed with a sprayer
Photo by Just Name from Pexels

Nutrients in Beets

Beets are rich in folate, high in fiber, and a good source of potassium, phosphorus and Vitamin A(1). They’re also a good source of dietary nitrates, which we do need (2,3,3,4,5).

Nutrition Facts(1):

(1 cup cooked, sliced)

Calories 31
Protein 1.5 grams
Carbohydrate 8.5 grams
Dietary Fiber 1.5 grams
Potassium 259 mg
Phosphorus 32 mg
Folate 53.2 mcg
Vitamin A 58.5 IU

Health Benefits of Beets

What does all of the good stuff in beets do for our bodies? A lot! Research has shown that drinking beet juice (one of the most popular ways to consume beets) may help with the prevention and treatment of heart disease2, may increase neuroplasticity in the aging brain3, may improve blood flow to critical brain areas known to be involved in executive functioning5, and may improve how our mitochondria function2. Mitochondria process oxygen and convert nutrients from the foods we eat into energy. 

Beets have also been shown to be good for increasing exercise performance,(2,3,4) but timing is apparently everything. You’ll need to drink your beet juice about three hours before you train or compete to reap the most benefits4.  It also seems that drinking just over 2 cups is the ideal amount for the best results4.

How to Prepare Beets

One of my favorite ways to eat beets is to roast them. Because they naturally contain sugar, roasting helps to bring out their sweetness and flavor. I have never had beet juice, but in reading all of the studies that focus on it for health benefits, I will definitely be trying beet smoothies soon. (I prefer smoothies over juice so that I don’t lose any of that valuable fiber.) 

Here are a couple of beet smoothie recipes that you may want to try:

Here are my favorite roasted beet recipes:

Budget Benefits of Beets

As long as you buy them in-season, beets are affordable. I can buy a small- to medium beet at my local farmers’ market for about 50 cents. It takes about eight small- to medium beets for a very good-sized recipe of roasted beets, which go great with brown rice, wild rice or quinoa for the perfect side dish. The beet smoothie recipes I mentioned above each include one small beet. 

If you’re juicing beets, Gina Eykemans says in this article for @kitchnn that it takes about four red beets to produce 1 cup of juice. If you’re drinking it as the ultimate exercise enhancer as mentioned above, that’s going to be about $4 for your 2 cups of juice. Now that’s a bit on the pricey side for me, but if you’re used to buying juice at a juice bar, that may be on par or cheaper than what you’re used to or if your exercise performance is a huge deal for you, it may be well worth it. 

For me, I’ll stick with my roasted beets and beet smoothies to reap all of the health benefits I can from simply eating these beautiful veggies. 

Sources

  1. University of Illinois Extension. Watch Your Garden Grow: Beetshttps://web.extension.illinois.edu/veggies/beet.cfm
  2. Beresewicz, Andrzej, Gajos-Draus, Anna. Enjoy Your Heart-Beets. The Role of Dietary Inorganic Nitrate in Cardiovascular Health. Kardiologia Polska (Polish Heart Journal). https://www.mp.pl/kardiologiapolska/issue/article/14433
  3. Petrie M, Rejeski WJ, Basu S, et al. Beet Root Juice: An Ergogenic Aid for Exercise and the Aging Brain. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2017;72(9):1284–1289. doi:10.1093/gerona/glw219. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5861951/
  4. Jones AM, Bailey SJ, Vanhatalo A. Dietary nitrate and O₂ consumption during exercise. Med Sport Sci. 2012;59:29–35. doi:10.1159/000342062. https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/342062
  5. Presley TD, Morgan AR, Bechtold E, et al. Acute effect of a high nitrate diet on brain perfusion in older adults. Nitric Oxide. 2011;24(1):34–42. doi:10.1016/j.niox.2010.10.002 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3018552/

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