One way that I have enjoyed beets in the past has been in my green juice. Now I’m not a regular green juice drinker but when I do I find that beets add a unique flavor. I especially like green juice if I feel a cold coming on but sometimes it helps just add a little energy to my day.
When I started to research beets I discovered that beet juice is very popular in health studies. This is due to the high amount of nitrates in beets. (Not to be confused with nitrites that are often added to bacon an hot dogs.) Nitrates when ingested from natural food source such as beets and spinach convert into nitric acid which in turn helps to widen and relax blood vessels.
This translates into some pretty cool health benefits.
Here are just a couple…
Improved athletic performance. Several studies have been conducted on nitrate consumption and athletic performance. (1, 2, 3) They show that oxygen use improves and it can help delay fatigue with competition. One study focused on running performance.
In the study one group was given baked beetroot while the other cranberry relish. The beetroot group tended to run faster. In fact 5% faster in the last 1/1 miles of a 5 k run. (7.)
It is best to drink your beet juice 2-3 hours before competition or training since nitrate levels peak around that time after consuming. There are no studies to show exactly how much beet juice to drink (although many studies used 17 oz) but start off around 4 oz and build from there. There is a detoxification effect with beet juice that not everyone tolerates well at first. Also another thing to consider is if you have low blood pressure. Since beets have been shown to lower blood pressure you have to be careful of lower it to far. (See below)
Lower blood pressure: Studies have shown that beets can lower blood pressure by 4 to 10 mmHg for a period of a few hours. The effect on systolic blood pressure seems to be greater than diastolic. (4.)This reduction is only temporary, usually only 6 hours. Eating beets regularly might help produce a more long term effect but more studies are needed. Because of this reduction in blood pressure many have concluded that beets can help with the reduction of strokes and heart attacks. Another study showed that ingesting beet juice helped to improve skeletal muscle strength, velocity and power in patients with heart failure. (5.)
May help with cognitive health: In a 2010 study a high nitrate diet in adults 70 and older were shown to have an increase in blood flow to the brain. In particular the frontal lobes that help with cognitive behavior. Subjects in this study consumed beet juice along with a beet and spinach salad at night. More studies need to be conducted but nitrates and beets in particular may help with improving cognitive and physical health in aging adults. (6.)
We decided to experiment with beet juice and see if we notice taking beet juice and improving our workouts. Since I have extremely low blood pressure and I’m not wanting to test the limits of how low I can tolerate my blood pressure going I decided to enlist Jason! He is super excited. So for the next couple of weeks I am going to have Jason drink beet juice about two hours before his workout and see how it goes. On our last beet blog I’ll have him report his findings. However a word of caution….
- Jason found that the beet juice was a little to much sugar for his system the first time he tried it. In future experiments he is going to pair the beets with a high protein snack such as chicken or collagen powder.
- If you tend to have calcium oxalate kidney stones then beet juice is not for you. It is naturally high in oxalates which can form crystals in urine and may lead to stones.
- If you do start eating beets or trying beet juice (we hope you do!) then beware your urine may be a little red.
So if you are ready to try beet juice this is what I created for Jason to try for the first time:
1 Blood Orange
Combine in juicer and enjoy.
Now since this combo was a lot of sugar I am going to play around with adding some other low sugar content veggies to the juice and see if that helps. I also plan to add the beet green in to a couple since they are also full of great nutrients.
We’ll report our finding of our little experiment in two weeks!
Next week: Red Flannel Hash. Yum!