You Just Can't Beat Beets!
There has never been a better time to eat the rich purple vegetable perhaps relegated to the side of your plate. It turns out that beets are ridiculously good for you, just like your mother insisted. Traditionally used as a blood tonic, encouraging healthy blood cell formation, as well as a cleansing tonic to the kidneys and liver, the uses herbalists long have known are borne out by recent research showing many additional benefits. The beet, or beetroot, (Beta vulgaris) is from the Goosefoot family. The distinctive deep red color derives from the glucoside pigment betalain. This compound is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and research indicates that it may exhibit anti-cancer activity. Nutritionally, beets contain high levels of folic acid, manganese, potassium, and iron; and the greens contain high levels of nutrients as well, so if you are buying whole beets do not discard them. They are a rich source of vitamins A, C, and K, and also have carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.
The most compelling recent news involving beets is their rich store of naturally-occurring nitrates. These plant compounds in the body convert to the gas known as nitric oxide (NO). (Not to be confused with nitrous oxide or the harmful nitrites found in certain processed foods.) NO is normally produced in the body from the amino acid L-arginine, but dietary sources such as spinach, arugula, and beets are just as effective in their precursor abilities. One of NO's main functions is to promote healthy dilation/relaxation of blood vessels thereby improving blood flow and also blood pressure. Improved blood flow results in increased oxygenation and transport of nutrients to tissues.
Cardiovascular/Blood Pressure Support
Many studies have been published demonstrating the ability of beets and nitrate-rich vegetables to lower blood pressure. A 2008 study published in the journal Hypertension found that in healthy volunteers 500 milliliters (16.9 ounces) of beet juice significantly lowered blood pressure after ingestion. Another study conducted in 2010 found similar results, concluding that drinking beetroot juice lowered blood pressure considerably on a dose-dependent basis. A study from Queen Mary University in London with 68 people with hypertension using three different techniques found a reduction in blood pressure in all subjects drinking a nitrate-rich beet juice. A separate study by the same research team found that the beet juice led to a 24% improvement in blood vessel flexibility and tone, as well as a slight decrease in blood clotting, another sign of improved cardiovascular health.
Beets and beet juice are becoming extremely popular as sports performance products. Athletic performance, stamina, and endurance may be enhanced by the NO production beets induce. Enhanced blood flow and oxygen delivery may improve tolerance to physical exercise. Muscle contractile efficiency is improved as well. Reduced amounts of oxygen are needed to perform exercise and recovery may be hastened with less soreness. NO increases the rate that your body uses stored energy in the form of glucose, the richest source of available energy. Endurance is increased by virtue of more efficient oxygen flow through the blood to muscles, lungs, and heart.
Researchers at Wake Forest University found that drinking juice from beets can improve oxygenation to the brain, slowing the progression of dementia in older adults. Blood flow to certain areas of the brain decreases with age and leads to a decline in cognition and possible dementia. Researchers concluded that consuming beetroot juice as part of a high nitrate diet can improve the blood flow and oxygenation to these areas that are lacking.
Evergreen carries several beet products, including an organic freeze-dried powder, handy for addition to smoothies and blended drinks, and fermented beet in capsules, the fermentation reducing the naturally-occurring sugar content of the vegetable.
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