6 Ways Beets Improve Your Brain and Body
Beet, or beetroot as it is commonly known, is a highly nutritious root plant belonging to the Chenopodiaceous family. Both the root and leaves of beets can be eaten. The leaves have a bitter taste while the root is round and sweet. The cultivation of this plant began with the Romans, and it gained popularity in the 19th century due to its high sucrose content.
Beets are typically deep purple in color, but there are also varieties available that are white or gold in color. Sugar beets are white in color and act as a primary source for sugar extraction. Many sugar beets are genetically modified, so look out for the ingredient “sugar” or “beet sugar” in your ingredients. It is wise to always purchase organic beets to ensure they are non-GMO.
Today, beets are gaining popularity because of the myriad of health benefits they offer. They are an incredibly healthy food to consume because of their high vitamin and mineral content. They contain vitamins A, B, and C, potassium, magnesium, folate, soluble fiber, protein, carbohydrates, and antioxidants. This high nutritional value of beetroot makes it an outstanding food that must be a part of everyone’s regular diet.
1. Keep Your Heart Healthy
Studies have found that consumption of beetroot juice can significantly lower blood pressure within hours of ingestion. This happens due to the presence of nitrate in beetroot, which lowers blood pressure. One 2012 study showed that men consuming 500 grams of beetroot juice lowered their systolic blood pressure by 5 mm/Hg for a 6 hour period (1).
The presence of triglycerides in our body increases the risk of heart-related problems. Beets reduce cholesterol and triglycerides and increase HDL cholesterol, which is a good defense against heart disease. (2)
2. Prevents Inflammation
Betaine is an amino acid that is a derivative of the nutrient choline. It is responsible for muscle gain and fat loss. It is also responsible for maintaining the cellular membrane and protecting proteins and enzymes from external stressors that may cause inflammation. (3, 4)
Choline also helps boost the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is important for gut motility and memory. This is one of the reasons why beets are used to help improve constipation and are known for their brain boosting benefits.
Many plants have been considered as an aphrodisiac at some point, but there is a reason that beetroot is known as “Nature’s Viagra.” The ancient Romans were onto something when they used beetroot as an aphrodisiac. The presence of nitrate in beets increases the flow of blood to the genitals. Beets are rich in boron, a mineral that is related to the production of sex hormones.
In addition, beets are a rich source of trimethylglycine, which is known as a methyl donor. Methyl donors carry and donate methyl (CH3) molecules in a process called methylation, which acts to neutralize various chemicals, activate and deactivate certain genes in order to help the body to have healthy genetic expression. One molecule trimethylglycine raises is called SAMe, which helps to boost mood and may contribute to increased libido (5).
Beets are very useful when it comes to detoxing blood and the liver. The pigment called betalain that is present in beets helps in the body’s phase 2 detoxification process, where the unwanted toxins are attached to small nutrient groups, to neutralize them and make them soluble so that the body can eliminate them.
Betalain is a natural pigment that triggers this reaction. It is responsible for the beetroot’s deep red color, which is sometimes used to make natural beauty products. A 2014 study showed that beet betalain helped to effectively detoxify both liver and mammary gland carcinogens (6).
Trimethylglycine is also a key part of phase II liver detoxification and it decreases an amino acid homocysteine. High homocysteine is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease (7).
5. Boosts Energy Levels
Nitrates are converted into nitrites in the body, which are known to expand the walls of the blood vessels and increase their oxygen carrying capacity. This dilation of blood vessels allows for the reduction of oxygen cost to the body.
Consuming a small amount of beetroot juice before exercise increased the performance of many professionals – swimmers were able to hold their breath for longer, and cyclists were able to cover greater distances. (8)
6. Prevents Dementia
In older people, the flow of oxygen to the brain is reduced. Consuming beets as a part of a high nitrate diet can increase blood flow to the brain in older people, as the blood vessels widen due to the presence of nitrites and the flow of blood and oxygen increases in the places that are oxygen deficient.
The increased flow of blood improves oxygenation in areas that were lacking, slowing the onset of dementia. In addition, as mentioned earlier, beets are one of the best plant sources of choline. Choline increases the memory forming neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain.
Dr Jockers Comments:
In addition to the benefits mentioned above, beets are also an excellent source of iron and folate for pregnant women. Both of these nutrients are able to improve pregnancy outcomes and reduce birth defects.
Beets are high in oxalates and sugar. If you are on a ketogenic diet you will want to avoid or only consume beets sparingly during times when you are cycling out of ketosis. If you are on a low-oxalate nutrition plan than it is best to avoid beets.