Beets nutrition

5 Health Benefits of Beets

And, with the right preparation, they can be surprisingly delicious!

6 Nutritional Benefits of Beets You Didn’t Know—Plus How to Cook Them

Nicole Clancy has been a freelance health and wellness writer since 1990. She is the founder of Health Your Way Online, and her column, Simply Fit, was a regular feature in the Santa Barbara Newspress for 14 years. Nicole’s articles have been internationally syndicated in Vogue, Glamour and Easy Living. She’s also contributed to Real Simple, O, Rachael Ray, Reveal, Country Living, Reader’s Digest, Fitness, Oxygen, Yoga Journal, Shape, Runners World, Trail Runner, Body and Soul, SELF, Redbook, Prevention, Cosmopolitan, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents, Her Sports, Good Housekeeping, Girls Life, Triathlete Magazine, Santa Barbara Magazine and Woman Magazine, as well as various health/fitness trade publications.

Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN is a nationally recognized nutrition expert with over 16 years of experience in culinary nutrition and communications.

Haley is a Wisconsin-based creative freelancer and recent graduate. She has worked as an editor, fact checker, and copywriter for various digital and print publications. Her most recent position was in academic publishing as a publicity and marketing assistant for the University of Wisconsin Press

Plenty of people cruise by beets at the grocery store or consciously avoid them because they’re not sure what to do with them. But there’s no reason to be intimidated by this root vegetable just because it looks a little different or is unfamiliar. Beets, or beetroots, are definitely worthy of a second look—they’re not only delicious but jam-packed with powerful nutrients. They boast fiber, nitrates (the good kind), folate, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C, just to name a few. And to make things easier, canned beets, roasted beets, and beet juice are all excellent options for a beet-fueled health boost.

Beets come in several different varieties. Red and purple beets are high in an anti-inflammatory compound known as betalains (a phytonutrient found in plants), specifically betacyanins, which give beets their deep red color. Then there are yellow and golden beets that contain a different group of betalains, called betaxanthins. Finally, you can also find beet greens, the leafy top of the beet plants that are totally edible and offer loads of B vitamins.

Here are a few more nutritious reasons to give beets a regular part of your diet—and some recipes to try.

Beet Health Benefits

Beets play a role in lowering blood pressure.

Beets help your heart by lowering blood pressure. “[They] contain inorganic nitrates that the body converts to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps lower blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels,” says Jennifer Weis, RD, LDN, founder and owner of Jennifer Weis Nutrition.

Beets are high in fiber.

Beets are very fiber-rich. Fiber not only helps your gastrointestinal tract stay regular, but also helps control blood sugar and even lower cholesterol. One cup of beetroots has 3.8 grams of fiber. (The American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of 28 grams of fiber.)

Beets give your brain a boost.

Beets boast nitrates—not the kind of nitrates found in some lunch meats, but the kind that turns into nitric oxide when consumed, which increases blood flow to the heart and brain by widening the blood vessels. This increased blood flow to the brain essentially helps keep it young and healthy. A 2017 study by Wake Forest University researchers found that, when combined with exercise, a supplement of beetroot juice “facilitates brain plasticity of somatomotor brain regions as compared with exercise and placebo alone,” especially in older adults.

Beets keep your kidneys and liver healthy.

Beets have a detoxifying component called phytonutrients. These phytonutrients increase enzymes that help detox your liver and decrease stress on your kidneys. Keep in mind, however, that beets are also rich in compounds called oxalates, which can contribute to kidney stones. So eat beets in moderation if you’re prone to kidney stones.

Beets reduce inflammation.

If you’re plagued by inflammation, consider beets as a possible solution, as this veggie has proven to help reduce inflammation thanks to its antioxidant content (thanks, betalains) and other properties. In one study, researchers examined gum inflammation, headaches, and recurrent pain that interrupted participants’ sleep and concluded that beetroot is a highly effective anti-inflammatory when all conditions improved.

Beets may improve exercise performance.

Drinking beetroot juice is thought to increase the body’s nitric oxide levels, which can help improve blood flow, cardiorespiratory endurance, and muscle and lung function. If you’re a fan of high-intensity exercise, you’ll like these study results. In one study, researchers found that those who supplemented with beet juice had an increase in exercise tolerance and lower ‘rate of perceived exertion’ (felt they weren’t working as hard as others for the same result) than those who did not consume beet juice.

How to Cook and Enjoy Beets

You have tons of options for preparing and eating beets. “They make great dippers (with hummus and guacamole), when cut into thin strips,” says Sara Peternell, MNT, board-certified holistic nutritionist specializing in family nutrition. She also recommends peeling and roasting them in the oven with olive oil (just like you would potatoes), then sprinkling with fresh herbs and sea salt for a delicious snack or side dish. “Arugula, goat cheese crumbles, chopped walnuts, torn fresh mint or basil, chopped roasted beets, and a light vinaigrette is perfect for a summer salad,” she adds.

Ashlee Inman, MPH, CPT, owner and founder of Mind Your Matter suggests you “try finely chopping al dente cooked beets and adding them to casseroles, tacos, and salads tossed with a healthy dressing.” You can also bake or steam some beets and serve them alongside a meat-based main. And don’t toss out those greens! “Beet greens can be chopped and sautéed with chopped onion and garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper,” says Weis. She loves to pair beets with goat cheese, balsamic vinegar, oranges, and hazelnuts for incredible flavor.

Recipes to Try

Steak and beet salad displayed on a plate.

Steak and Beet Salad With Radicchio

Tart red wine vinegar balances the natural, earthy sweetness of the beets, and crisp minced radicchio pairs well with the steak’s tender texture. But the real kicker is the roasted and salted pepitas! Get the recipe.

German Beet-and-Potato Salad

German Beet-and-Potato Salad

Golden beets stud this healthy potato salad made with Yukon gold potatoes—and bacon! The best part? You don’t need to boil the potatoes. Get the recipe.

Spiralized Sesame Beet Salad

Spiralized Sesame Beet Salad

Rather than steam beets, you’ll serve them raw by spiraling them into an easy-to-enjoy shape. Lime juice, ginger, and tamari infuse each bite with a delicious herbal flavor. Get the recipe.

Mixed Grains Bowl With Beet-Ginger Dressing

Mixed Grains Bowl With Beet-Ginger Dressing

A combo of rice, lentils, and quinoa form the base of the dish, topped with shaved fennel and creamy avocado, plus a photo-worthy fuchsia dressing made from beets, ginger, and kefir. Get the recipe.

Pink Hummus

Pink Hummus

Punch up homemade hummus—both visually and nutritionally—by adding a small, cooked, red beet to the food processor along with the classic chickpeas, tahini, garlic, and lemon. Get the recipe.

5 Health Benefits of Beets

Sliced beets.

To the uninitiated, beets can be intimidating. They’re knobby, blood-red and give off a rich, earthy aroma. But it’s certainly worth the effort to get to know this nutritionally dense root vegetable.

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“Beets are unique for their cardiovascular and heart health benefits,” says registered dietitian Sarah Thomsen Ferreira, RD. “Due to a combination of compounds found in beets, they are able to enhance blood flow, improve the health of arteries, support lower homocysteine levels and reduce LDL cholesterol.”

And, with the right preparation, they can be surprisingly delicious!

Are beets healthy?

What makes beets such gems? It turns out that the same thing that makes these root vegetables so colorful also gives you plenty of nutrients. Beets get their jewel-like hue from betalains, a type of natural plant pigment that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Ready to start adding beets to your salad or soup? Here are some of the reasons why beets are a great addition to your plate:

Plenty of nutritional benefits

If you’re looking for something that’s low in calories but high in nutrients, look no further than the humble beet. Adding beets into your salads, soups and other daily meals can be a good way to enhance a balanced diet.

Plus — like other purple-colored fruits and veggies — beets are an excellent source of antioxidants. These natural compounds protect your cells from damage and may even lower the risk of diseases like heart disease and cancer.

Anti-inflammatory properties

Ongoing inflammation in the body is linked to several diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma and obesity. Luckily, beets have a number of anti-inflammatory benefits, thanks to their high content of betalains.

You can maximize getting all this goodness by consuming beets in juice form. Trust us, it’s tastier than you think.

Studies have shown that beet juice reduces inflammation across your whole body. One study in 2014 found that betalain capsules with beetroot extract helped relieve joint pain due to osteoarthritis. However, more research is needed to know the full impact of betalain capsules on osteoarthritis.

High in fiber

Working beets into your diet is a great way to boost your fiber intake. Just one cup of beetroot contains 3.8 grams of fiber.

And the health benefits of fiber are plentiful. Fiber can help you control blood sugar levels, maintain a healthy weight, lower your cholesterol and stay regular. Plus, a balanced diet of fiber could reduce your risk for conditions like colon cancer, heart disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBS).

High in nitrates

“Beets contain nitrates, which help to open blood vessels,” Thomsen Ferreira explains. “That can help with blood pressure and may also improve athletic performance and brain function.”

Research has shown that drinking beet juice before exercising will increase your cardiorespiratory endurance — allowing you to exercise for longer. This is because the nitrates found in beets are turned into nitric acid in your body, which in turn increases blood flow. This improves lung function and also strengthens muscle contraction.

The nitrates in beets are also to thank for helping lower blood pressure if you have hypertension, according to more research on this mighty vegetable. Indeed, beet juice has been shown in studies to reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Plus, a nitrate-rich diet has also been linked to improved brain function. Because nitrates widen blood vessels, this allows for an increased flow of blood to the brain, which is beneficial to cognitive function.

Great source of potassium

“Beets — and beet greens — are a good source of potassium,” Thomsen Ferreira says. Potassium helps create more flexible blood vessels for lower blood pressure, adding another benefit for cardiovascular and heart health benefits. All of these are critical for good health — and all well-sourced from beets!

Beet benefits from their color

A healthy diet is a colorful diet. Different plant colors mean different plant nutrients. As mentioned, beets are one of the few sources of betalains, unique plant compounds that are found in a mini-rainbow of options.

  • Red and purple beets are especially high in a type of betalain called betacyanins.
  • Yellow or golden beets are packed with a different group of betalain, called betaxanthins. (FYI: Red beets can turn your urine red — if that freaks you out, these yellow or golden ones are your go-to beets!)
  • Beet greens are a deep, rich green — a sign they’re full of good stuff. “They’re a really terrific source of beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin for eye and vision health and definitely not something to be wasted,” Thomsen Ferreira says. Whether sautéed or tossed in a salad, think about ways to use the whole beet!

How to eat beets

Now you know why beets reign supreme, here are more ways you add them to your diet:

Crank your can opener

Canned beets are as easy as it gets. Slice them up for a salad with goat cheese and walnuts. Or blend them with hummus for a pretty pink dip. Plus, if you’re not a fan of the flavor of beets, blending them into a smoothie can help mellow it out if you mix it with other ingredients. Try to go for canned beets that don’t have added salt, either.

Preheat your oven

Roasting beets brings out their earthy-sweet goodness. Even better: Try slicing them into thin pieces and popping them in the oven to make crunchy beet chips.

Grab a glass

Beet juice doesn’t contain the fiber of whole beets. But juice can be a good way to kick up the beets if you’re using them for a brain boost or athletic enhancement, Thomsen Ferreira notes. Most grocery stores carry beet juice. You can even find powdered beet juice supplements in the fitness section of groceries or vitamin stores.

Do beets have a downside?

Before you start beet-loading, a word of caution: Beets are rich in oxalates, which can contribute to kidney stones. If you have kidney stones, it’s best to enjoy beetroots and beet greens in moderation.

For most healthy people, though, oxalates aren’t an issue. As part of a balanced, varied diet, you simply can’t beat beets.

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