Beetroot is a root vegetable used as both a culinary vegetable and as a dietary supplement. Beetroot contains several nutrients and bioactive compounds, including nitrate, potassium, folate, and vitamin C. As a supplement beetroot is usually taken in the form of juice or as a powder.
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 proving 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.