The beetroot is a root vegetable, scientifically known as Beta vulgaris.
It is also known as red beet, table beet, garden beet, or simply beet.
Packed with essential nutrients, beetroots are a great source of fiber, folate (vitamin B9), manganese, potassium, iron and vitamin C.
Beetroots and beetroot juice have been associated with numerous health benefits, including improved blood flow, lower blood pressure and increased exercise performance.
Many of these health benefits are due by their high content of inorganic nitrates.
Beetroots are delicious when eaten raw, but are more frequently cooked or pickled. Their leaves can also be cooked and enjoyed like spinach.
There are numerous different types of beetroots, many of which are distinguished by their color; yellow, white, pink or dark purple.
Beetroots mainly consist of water (87%), carbohydrates (8%) and fiber (2-3%).
One cup (136 grams) of boiled beetroots contains less than 60 calories.
The table below contains information on all the nutrients found in beetroots ().
Raw or cooked beetroots contain about 8-10% carbohydrates.
Simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose, make up 70% of the carbs in raw beetroots, and 80% in cooked beetroots.
Beetroots are also a source of fructans, short-chain carbs which are classified as FODMAPs.
Some people cannot digest these FODMAPs, causing unpleasant digestive symptoms.
Beetroots have a glycemic index score of 61, which is considered to be in the medium range ().
The glycemic index is a measure of how fast blood sugar levels rise after a meal.
On the other hand, the glycemic load of beetroots is only 5, which is very low.
This means that beetroots should not have a major effect on blood sugar levels, because the total carb amount in each serving is low.
Beetroots are high in fiber, providing about 2-3 grams in each 100 gram serving.
Dietary fiber is important as part of a healthy diet, and has been linked to reduced risk of various diseases ().
Bottom line: The carbs in beetroots are mainly simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose. They are also high in fiber. Beetroots contain carbs called FODMAPs, which can cause digestive problems in some people.
Beetroots are a great source of many essential vitamins and minerals.
- Folate (B9): One of the B-vitamins, important for normal tissue growth and cell function (). It is particularly important for pregnant women ().
- Manganese: An essential trace element, found in high amounts in whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
- Potassium: A diet high in potassium can lead to reduced blood pressure levels, and have positive effects on cardiovascular health ().
- Iron: An essential mineral, which has many important functions in the body. It is necessary for the transport of oxygen in red blood cells.
- Vitamin C: An antioxidant that is important for immune function and skin health (, ).
Bottom line: Beetroots are good sources of vitamins and minerals, such as folate, manganese, potassium, iron and vitamin C.
Plant compounds are natural plant substances, some of which have beneficial effects in humans.
These are the main plant compounds in beetroots:
- Betanin: Also called beetroot red, betanin is the most common pigment in beetroots, responsible for their strong red color. It is believed to have various health benefits ().
- Inorganic nitrate: Found in generous amounts in green leafy vegetables, beetroots and beetroot juice (, ). In the body, it can transform into nitric oxide, which has many important functions ().
- Vulgaxanthin: A yellow or orange pigment found in beetroots and yellow beets.
Bottom line: Beetroots are high in several beneficial plant compounds, especially betanin (beetroot red), vulgaxanthin and inorganic nitrates.
Inorganic nitrates include nitrates, nitrites and nitric oxide.
Beetroots, and beetroot juice, are exceptionally high in nitrates.
There has been some debate about these substances in the past.
Some believe that they are harmful and cause cancer, while others think the risk is overstated (, ).
Most dietary nitrate (80-95%) comes from fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, dietary nitrite comes from food additives, processed cured meats, baked goods and cereals (, ).
Research shows that diets rich in nitrites and nitrates can have positive health effects, including lower blood pressure levels and decreased risk of many diseases (, ).
Dietary nitrates, such as those coming from beetroots, can get converted into a biological messenger molecule called nitric oxide ().
Nitric oxide travels through the artery walls, sending signals to the tiny muscle cells around the arteries and telling them to relax (, ).
When these tiny muscle cells relax, our blood vessels dilate and blood pressure goes down ().
Bottom line: Beetroots are exceptionally high in inorganic nitrates, which have been associated with reduced blood pressure and other health benefits.
Beetroots and beetroot juice have many health benefits, especially for heart health and exercise performance.
Lower Blood Pressure
Hypertension is an abnormally high blood pressure, which can cause damage to blood vessels and the heart.
Elevated blood pressure is among the strongest risk factors for heart disease, stroke and premature death worldwide ().
Eating fruits and vegetables, rich in inorganic nitrates, may cut the risk of cardiovascular disease by promoting lower blood pressure and increased nitric oxide formation (, ).
Studies have shown that beetroots, or beetroot juice, can reduce blood pressure by up to 3-10 mm/Hg over a period of a few hours (, , , ).
These blood pressure lowering effects are likely due to increased levels of nitric oxide (, ), a molecule that causes our blood vessels to relax and dilate (, ).
Bottom line: Beetroots can lower blood pressure, which may lead to reduced risk of heart disease and several other diseases.
Increased Exercise Capacity
Numerous studies suggest that nitrates can enhance physical performance, particularly during high intensity endurance exercise.
Dietary nitrates have been shown to reduce oxygen use during physical exercise by affecting the efficiency of mitochondria, the cell organs responsible for producing energy ().
Beetroots (or beetroot juice) are often used for this purpose because of their high inorganic nitrate content.
Consumption of beetroots may improve running and cycling performance (, , ), increase stamina (), improve oxygen use (, ) and lead to better exercise performance overall ().
Bottom line: Beetroot consumption can improve oxygen use, increase stamina and lead to better exercise performance.
Beetroots are usually well tolerated, except for individuals who are prone to kidney stones.
Consumption of beetroot may cause urine to become pink/red, which is harmless but often confused with blood in urine.
Beetroots may contain high levels of oxalates (), which can contribute to kidney stone formation ().
Oxalates also have antinutrient properties. This means that they may interfere with the absorption of micronutrients.
The levels of oxalates are much higher in the leaves of the beetroot plant than in the root (), but the root is nevertheless considered high in oxalates.
Beetroots contain FODMAPs in the form of fructans. They are short chain carbohydrates that feed the gut bacteria.
FODMAPs can cause unpleasant digestive upset in sensitive individuals, such as those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome.
Bottom line: Beetroots are usually well tolerated, but they contain oxalates and FODMAPs, which may cause problems in some people.
Beetroots are a good source of nutrients, fiber and many plant compounds, and their consumption has been linked to improved health.
Their health benefits include improved heart health and enhanced exercise capacity, both of which are attributed to their content of inorganic nitrates.
Beetroots taste rather sweet, and are especially delicious when mixed in salads.
They are easy to prepare, can even be eaten raw, and fit well into a balanced and healthy diet.