Rooting for Beets!
Beets are one of those veggies that you either love or hate. I know that I grew up not really caring for them, but then again, my exposure was only with those watery, canned beets. Thankfully, I rediscovered them in the school cafeteria at Bastyr University (which is known for their truly excellent vegetarian fare!) As I learned that these could taste great, and concurrently learned of their health benefits, I dove right into the phrase, “eat foods that stain your teeth and clothes!”
While beets taste very sweet, their nutrition profile is great, even for those who are watching their blood sugar. One cup of raw beets contains about 58 calories and only about 13 grams of carbohydrates. Packed into that serving is a healthy dose of folate, potassium, vitamin C, fiber, and a unique food component, nitrates. These naturally occurring nitrates get broken down into the body into nitric acid, a compound known to improve blood flow and support healthy cardiovascular function. Studies have shown that after consuming nitrates like those in beets participants reported increased stamina during exercise after only about a week on the food.
Research in the area of nitrates and specifically nitrates in beets has shown mixed results, likely because for many people, the nitrates that they eat do not efficiently convert fully into nitric acid. But, there is still likely value! Studies challenging results have tended to take place in healthy populations, where you’d expect there may be less of an effect due to a healthy body to start.
To obtain the nitrate benefits of beets, they have to be consumed raw or juiced. Thankfully, beet juice makes a sweet, colorful addition to your favorite juicing recipe!
Here’s one of my favorites:
2 medium beets
1 granny smith apple
1 inch “thumb” of ginger
1 tbsp chia seeds, optional
Juice all fruits according to your manufacturer’s directions. (I recommend starting with the ginger, as the following veggies will wash out all of the pungent spicy goodness and you’ll leave less behind!). Add in 1 tbsp of chia seeds and allow to soak for 5 minutes. Serve over ice, enjoy!
Dr. Jaclyn Chasse ND