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. Currently, there's no research on whether it's 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.
From an epidemiological perspective, nitrates are commonly thought to be adverse to health due to a long-standing restriction on how much nitrate can be in drinking water (50mg/L) or ground water (due to accumulating in vegetables) due to the risk of infantile methemoglobinemia (baby blue syndrome) which does appear to apply to vegetables. More commonly, the association between processed meat products that are pink in color (which very commonly use sodium nitrate as a preservative) and cancer occurrence also paints nitrates in the same negative light. Conversely, vegetables are commonly stated to not be associated with cancer risk (which then raises concern about whether or not they are the same molecules).
Both consumption of vegetables (most commonly researched is beetroot) and consumption of the sodium nitrate preservative cause increases in serum nitrate and nitrite, and are considered bioequivalent. In some studies that assess nitrate's bioactivity, liquid solutions of sodium nitrate are even used.
There are still differences between eating processed meat and vegetables in this regard (intake of sodium through the preservative sodium nitrate and higher intake of potassium via vegetables; less conversion of nitrate into nitrosamines with coingested antioxidants) but the molecule itself is the same.
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- ^Survey of Literature Relating to Infant Methemoglobinemia Due to Nitrate-Contaminated Water
- ^Cyanosis in Infants Caused by Nitrates in Well Water
- ^McKnight GM, Duncan CW, Leifert C, Golden MHDietary nitrate in man: friend or foeBr J Nutr.(1999 May)
- ^Chan TYVegetable-borne nitrate and nitrite and the risk of methaemoglobinaemiaToxicol Lett.(2011 Jan 15)
- ^Meat consumption and mortality - results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition
- ^Wylie LJ, Kelly J, Bailey SJ, Blackwell JR, Skiba PF, Winyard PG, Jeukendrup AE, Vanhatalo A, Jones AMBeetroot juice and exercise: pharmacodynamic and dose-response relationshipsJ Appl Physiol.(2013 May 2)
- ^Larsen FJ, Weitzberg E, Lundberg JO, Ekblom BDietary nitrate reduces maximal oxygen consumption while maintaining work performance in maximal exerciseFree Radic Biol Med.(2010 Jan 15)
- ^Sindler AL, Fleenor BS, Calvert JW, Marshall KD, Zigler ML, Lefer DJ, Seals DRNitrite supplementation reverses vascular endothelial dysfunction and large elastic artery stiffness with agingAging Cell.(2011 Jun)