Beets 101: Nutrition Facts, Health Benefits, Risks, and Usages

Beetroot, commonly known as beets, is an amazing healthy superfood…

Beets are fully packed with healthy nutrients and most of the nutritional value of beets is not missed when cooked by steaming or roasting.

It tastes great and is being used in many dishes around the world.

In this post we’ll have a closer look to this power food and you’ll learn about the healing properties of beets and how to use it in order to get the most out of it.

Beets Nutrition Facts

One serving (one cup or 136 g) of raw beets produces 58.5 kcal of energy. 87% of the calories in beets come from carbs, 3% from fats, and 10% from protein.

Although the amount of beets calories are low per serving but it boasts of a large amount of minerals and vitamins within itself. This characteristic makes beets an excellent food for weight loss purposes ().

The large amount of nutrients available in beets has made it to be considered a superfood by most nutritionists and health experts.

One of the negative properties of beets is the high amount of sugar available in it. One cup (146 g) of beetroot contains about 9.2 grams of sugar which is considered high. This unique characteristic has made beets the best raw material for refined sugar producing companies. Nowadays beets are mostly cultivated in all over the world mostly for producing refined sugar from it in industrial factories.

To produce beets sugar, the beets must undergo many industrial and chemical processes which destroys nearly all of the health benefits of them. So it’s recommended to avoid the beets refined sugar as much as possible and user fresh organic beets instead to get the most out of it.

Beets approximate ph level is between 5.30 and 6.60, so it’s considered a non-acidic food which will NOT cause heartburn and is a safe food for alkaline diets ().

Check out the image below which illustrates almost all of the important beets nutritional values:

Beets Nutrition Facts

The History of Beets

Apparently beets have been used for thousands of years ago in north of Africa by local people. But at that time they only used the leafy green parts of the beets and threw away the red sweet root of the plant.

The ancient Romans were most probably the first people on the earth who used the roots of the beets as a food.

During 16th to 19th century beets became known to other civilizations and people start to use them in more creative ways. For example they used the beetroot juice as food dye or sweetener.

In 19th century the first sugar factory was built in poland and refined sugar was produced from the beet roots.

Today beets are produced and harvested in all over the world as a commercial plant for producing refined sugar and also to use in cooking as a delicious food.

10 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Beets

As mentioned above beets are fully packed with useful nutrients which have scientifically been proven to help improve our health and fight diseases.

Below is a list of 9 most important ways the beets impact our bodies and improve our health:

1. Lower Blood Pressure

An increasing number of new studies are showing that the dietary Nitrates available in beets can lower the blood pressure within just a few hours (, ).

Beets are more effective in lowering systolic blood pressure, which is a pressure that happens when your heart is contracting, rather than a diastolic blood pressure, which is a pressure that happens when your heart is relaxed (, ).

Beets help lower blood pressure for a short period of time, i.e. about 6 hours. You need to consume beets for a longer period of time to see long-term results ().

If you’re going to use beets to lower your blood pressure you must take it in into consideration that you should avoid cooking beets, and use the raw beets instead to get the maximum results ().

2. Detox and Cleanse Liver, Blood, and Digestive System

Liver plays a crucial role in our body and keeps our bodies healthy by filtering the blood and removing unhealthy and dangerous toxins from it. Since the liver is always in direct contact with toxins, it’s not unlikely for it to get contaminated by them and may need your attention and help for optimal functioning.

Beets contains Betanin, a useful nutrient which helps your body to detox. New researches have shown that Betanin helps Liver to get rid of toxins, heavy metals, and accumulated waste ().

To get the most from the detoxifying properties of beets, it is recommended to use it in the form of raw beet juice.

Beets also contains a fairly large amount of dietary fiber which also cleanse the digestive tract by facilitating the movement of waste material within intestines ().

Juicing eliminates lots of the fiber available in beets. So to cleanse your digestive tract and improve the health of your digestive system it is recommended to use beets without juicing it whether raw or cooked.

3. Enhance Athletic Performance

Beets contains nitrates, a substance which new researches have proved to be effective in improving athletic performance (). Nitrates improves physical performance by improving the time of exhaustion () and also increasing the oxygen use by 20% ().

The best time to use beets for improving athletic performance is 2-3 hours before workout or competition ().

4. Promote Digestive Health

Beets contain a large amount of dietary fiber. One serving (one cup) of beets contains 3.8 grams of fiber which is equal to 15% of your overall daily fiber need ().

Fiber can not be considered a nutrient, because it’s not digested by body, but is completely excreted after passing the digestive tract. However, it is crucial for the health of our guts and the health of our guts is also crucial for our body’s overall health.

Fiber improves the bowel movements, keeps you regular, promotes digestive health, and prevents digestive conditions such as constipation and bowel diseases (, ).

To get the maximum benefit from the fibers available in beets use the raw or cooked beetroots in their complete form and not the beet juice.

5. Boosts Brain Performance

New studies show that the disruption of the blood flow to the brain is the main reason for mental and cognitive dysfunctions in older people which may lead to chronic diseases such as dementia and alzheimer (, ).

Beets contain a fairly high amount of Nitrates. Nitrates have been proven to lower blood pressure and increase the blood flow to the brain which can improve the mental and cognitive performance especially in older people ().

6. Helps to Lose Weight

Researches suggest that incorporating low calorie foods (i.e. foods that have a high volume and a low energy density) such as vegetables and fruits into your diet can be an effective strategy to promote weight loss (, ).

Beets contain a large amount of water (high volume) and a small amount of calorie (low energy density), which makes it an ideal food for weight loss.

Beets also contain a moderate amount of fiber which can decrease your overall daily calorie intake by curbing your appetite, decreasing your hunger, and providing a feeling of fullness ().

7. May Help Diabetes

One of the main downsides of beets is the high amount of sugar content available in it. One serving (136 g) of beets contains 9.2 grams of sugar which is relatively high. This property of beets could raise worries among those who are on sugar-free diets or are suffering from high blood sugar levels (diabetes).

But the truth is not only beets are not harmful for diabetes but they can also help to improve it. The reason many people, even some namely experts, consider beets to be a harmful food for diabetes is that they look at the glycemic index (GI) of beets (about 64) which is high. But glycemic index is a misleading metric for measuring the effect of food on blood sugar. A more reliable metric to look at for measuring the effect of food on blood sugar is glycemic load (GL). The estimated glycemic load for one serving of beets is 3, which is very low ().

So, using one or two servings of beets per day is completely safe for diabetes and will not increase your blood sugar.

To get a better understanding of what GI and GL are and how they differentiate from each other check out this article from the Huffington Post.

Moreover, beets contain a large amount of fiber and new researches have shown that dietary fiber can considerably lower the risk of type 2 diabetes ().

Furthermore, other researches also have shown that the dietary nitrates available in beetroot juice can greatly improve the cognitive function of people who are suffering from type 2 diabetes ().

8. May Help to Fight Cancer

Cancer is a fatal disease which takes millions of lives each year throughout the world.

Beets is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory food. Ir also contains Betalain which have been proved to protect our bodies against developing cancer.

These properties of beets have encouraged some researchers to investigate the anticancer properties of beets. The new researches have shown that the Betalain available in beets are able to stop the growth of cancer tumors in animals ().

Further research, however, is required to assert that beetroot can cure cancer in living human beings.

9. May Reduce the Levels of Inflammation

Inflammation is the root of many chronic diseases such as obesity, joints pain, heart diseases, and cancer ().

Betalains are the red pigments available in beets which are considered to own anti-inflammatory properties.

Some studies conducted on rats show that the Betalain available in beet have anti-inflammatory effects and can reduce inflammation in the body ().

Not many studies have  been conducted on human beings to show the effectiveness of Betalains available in beetroot in reducing inflammation. But, a recent study showed that the use of Betalain-rich red beet concentrate can significantly reduce the knee discomfort and inflammation ().

Further research is needed, however, to ensure the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory properties of beets on living human beings.

10. May Help Treat Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

As mentioned earlier, the dietary Nitrates available in beets has been proven to lower blood pressure (). On the other hand, groundbreaking research shows that high blood pressure is one of the main causes of Erectile Dysfunction (). High blood pressure can disrupt blood flow to the penis in men and to the vagina in women and cause Erectile Dysfunction (ED) in men and weak libido in women.

Therefore, beets can improve the symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction (ED) and also increase the sex drive and libido in women by lowering blood pressure and increasing blood flow to the sexual organs.

Beets also contain Nitric Oxide which new studies show can effectively improve Erectile Dysfunction ().

Beets Health Benefits and Side Effects

Beets Side Effects and Precautions

One man’s meat is another man’s poison.

Not all kinds of foods are suitable for all people. Beets are not an exception to this rule. Although they have been proven to be fully packed with healthy nutrients and numerous benefits for your body, but there are some people who should avoid them.

Below is the list of the main side effects and precautions on beets:

1. Cause Beeturia & Tarry Stools

Our urine and stool are indicators of our health situation and they have been used by holistic medicines such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to diagnose diseases and health condition for many centuries.

About 5-15% of the adults who consume beets may notice that the color of their urine changes to pink. This phenomenon is called Beeturia in modern medicine.

The culprits are Betalains, which are the red pigments available in beets in a large amount.

The studies show that this effect usually happen to people who have an iron deficiency, or iron excess, or a problem with iron metabolism (, ).

This effect is completely harmless and will be resolved after stopping to use beets for a few days.

Betalains also may darken the color of the stool of some people, which again is harmless.

Pink urine and dark stool are also an indication of the availability of the blood in urine or stool (). So, if you suspect that your pink urine or dark stool is due to bleeding, stop using beets for a few days and see if their color change to normal. If the color didn’t change into normal, consult your doctor as soon as possible.

2. Form Kidney Stones

If you have a history of kidney stone or gallbladder stone you’d be better off avoiding beets.

Beets contain a large amount of dietary oxalate which have been proved to increase the risk of formation of calcium oxalate kidney stones (, ).

But, if you don’t have any history of calcium oxalate kidney stones, there are no worries about using beets in moderation and on a regular basis.

3. Lower Blood Pressure

As mentioned above, drinking one glass of beetroot juice can effectively lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health ().

But, beets can be dangerous for those who have a history of low blood pressure or their blood pressure fluctuates a lot. It may lower their blood pressure further and lead to an alarming low blood pressure level.

People who are suffering from high blood pressure and are taking medications to control their blood pressure levels should also be wary of beets. Because beets lower your blood pressure and using them in conjunction with antihypertensive drugs may lead to an alarming low blood pressure level.

So, if you are taking antihypertensive drugs, it’s recommended to consult your doctor before using beets on a regular basis and ask him/her to help you drop off prescribed medications by replacing beets with them.

4. May Cause Stomach Upset

Beets contain a fairly large amounts of Nitrates which is completely safe and harmless to use. But according to a report published by “Ohio Department of Health”, exposure to high levels of Nitrates may cause nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness, blurred vision, breathing problems and eventually muscle paralysis ().

Infants and pregnant women can be more susceptible to this condition.

As mentioned above, this condition occurs only due to the exposure to very high levels of Nitrates and by just using a glass of beets juice or some cooked beetroots you may not show these symptoms but it will add up to your overall intake of Nitrate.

So, instead of completely eliminating a very healthy and beneficial food like beets from your diet to avoid the symptoms of overexposure to Nitrates, you can reduce your overall intake of Nitrates by ():

  • Avoiding preserved meats like hot dogs, sausages, bacon, etc.
  • Making sure that the water you consume is free from Nitrates
  • Using a large amount of “Vitamin C” each day

5. May Be Dangerous for Pregnant Women and Infants

As it was mentioned above beets contain a fairly large amount of Nitrates. Infants and pregnant women are more susceptible to this chemical and exposure to it may cause blood disorders and cause serious health problems. It’s recommended that women, after the 30th week of their pregnancy, and infants, until they’re 6 months of age, avoid using beets and other foods containing Nitrates (, ).

6. Can Worsen Symptoms of Gout

Gout is a type of arthritis which is so painful and occurs due to the uric acid build-up in the body. According to a study from the university of Maryland, foods containing oxalate such as beets and spinach can worsen the symptoms of gout and those suffering from this disease should avoid them to reduce symptoms ().

Beets in alternative medicines

Beets have long been used both as a food or as a medicines in different cultures and old holistic medicines.

Below you can find some of the main characteristics and usages of beets in traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) (, ).

  • Nature: Cool
  • Taste: Sweet
  • Channel entering: Enters the heart and liver channel

Beets Health benefits:

  • Cleanse and detoxifies the liver
  • Nourishes and quickens blood
  • Calms the spirit
  • lubricates and moistens the intestines
  • supplements the heart
  • treats menstrual irregularities, blood vacuity, and fluid dryness constipation.
Beets in Alternative Medicine

How to buy, store, and use beets

How to buy beets?

You can find beets in most grocery stores or outdoor markets. Beets are seasonal vegetables and can usually be found during the summer season. When buying beetroots try to choose the ones which are smaller, harder and without wrinkle. The beets which have a rounded bottom usually are sweeter than the flat-bottomed ones. Choose the beetroot which seems to be heavier in proportion to its size and also the beets which have FRESH greens attached to them.

How to store beets?

You can keep the beets in refrigerator for 2-3 days while the green part is not cut off from it. If you cut the greens you can keep it in refrigerator for a longer period of time i.e. 2-3 weeks. Freezing the raw beet roots is not a good idea because it lose its texture and gets soft after freezing. Freezing cooked beetroots is fine and the texture and taste are preserved well after freezing.

How to use beets?

Beets can be used in different forms:

  • Raw – You can juice it which is my favorite method for incorporating beets into my diet. Or you can grate it into salad or blend it with yogurt.
  • Boiled or Steamed – Remember not to overcook it or it will lose most of its nutrients. The Nitrates available in beets is water soluble so it’s better to avoid boiling it. And also remember to remove the skin before cooking. Quick steaming for 15 minutes is the best way of cooking beets without losing its nutrients.
  • Pickled – Pickled beets is too cold and too damp so if you have a cold and damp body it’s better to avoid them.
  • Roasted – Is very delicious and most of its nutrients are preserved.
  • Precooked and Canned – It’s recommended to use organic fresh beets instead.

Note: Don’t throw away beets tops. Because like beets roots, beets leafy greens are fully packed with lots of nutrients. It contains more iron than spinach and has a higher nutritional value than the beetroot. You can use it like spinach. Add it to salads, steam it, add to other vegetable juices, or saute it along with other vegetables.