Beetroot (usually as juice) is a supplement with a high nitrate content that is said to improve physical performance secondary to nitric oxide. It appears to have some evidence for this claim in healthy athletes.
Beetroot is most often used for
Beetroot appears to reduce blood pressure in instances where blood pressure is raised. This appears to occur in people with hypertension and can occur in otherwise healthy persons undergoing exercise.
Beetroot can improve exercise performance in various different contexts. In general it seems to reduce fatigue with continued muscle contractions and may therefore have most benefit during anaerobic cardiovascular exercise or muscular endurance events (e.g., sports with anaerobic intervals such as hockey, rugby, and crossfit-type exercises). Beetroot also seems to benefit exercise performance during prolonged endurance exercise, albeit seemingly to a small degree.
Beetroot may be beneficial for oral health. Beetroot does not appear to improve insulin sensitivity or cognitive function. There is currently no evidence looking at whether beetroot is beneficial for erectile dysfunction.
Beetroot is high in oxalate, meaning it could increase the risk of oxalate-based kidney stones in susceptible individuals.
The nitrate content of beetroot is theoretically a concern because nitrate can lead to the formation of compounds called nitrosamines, some of which are carcinogenic. However, observational evidence largely does not support a link between vegetable-derived nitrate intake and cancer risk.
Because nitrate can cause blood vessels to dilate, it’s possible some people may experience headaches following beetroot ingestion.
Beetroot can cause stool and urine to develop a red or pink color in the hours to days following ingestion. This condition is benign but the coloration may resemble blood, which could be alarming.
Most of beetroot's effects are by providing nitrate, which can be converted into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide can induce vasodilation (expansion of blood vessels), thereby lowering blood pressure. The vasodilatory effect of nitric oxide also increases blood flow — and thus oxygen and nutrient delivery — to muscles, improving exercise performance. Additionally, nitric oxide seems to enhance muscle contraction and cellular energy efficiency.
- Beetroot juice
Beetroot tends to be dosed on the nitrate content, with around 0.1-0.2mmol/kg (6.4-12.8mg/kg) being the target for nitrate. This is about 436mg for a 150lb person, which is comparable to half a kilogram (500g) of the beetroots themselves (wet weight).
Consumption of beetroots for the nitrate content can be either via a puree or smoothie, or the beets themselves can be baked in an oven into chips. The aforementioned cooking techniques do not appear to reduce the nitrate content.
Although the food products that contain nitrates differ widely, the nitrates present in processed meats and vegetables are chemically identical.