Are You Eating Beets for Weight Loss and Diabetes?
The ancient Romans considered beets an aphrodisiac, and while you may love the ruby red vegetable for this quality, there are two other reasons to enjoy it. You should consider eating beets for weight loss and diabetes.
Beets (Beta vulgaris) have been valued since recorded time as a food as well as for their medicinal characteristics, including constipation, skin problems, and fever. Given the current epidemic of overweight, obesity, and diabetes, it’s about time we turn to beets to help with these pressing issues.
Beets are low in calories, high in nutrients
One cup of cooked beets contains only 59 calories but is a great source of fiber (3.8 g), which helps not only with weight loss but regularity as well. That same cup of beets has virtually no fat (0.2 g), 442 mg of potassium, 2.2 g of protein, and healthy levels of folate and manganese, as well as decent amounts of B vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus.
One important phytonutrient category that is unique to beets is betalains, which include betanin and vulgaxanthin. These betalains provide excellent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification benefits.
Beets lower blood pressure
The evidence that beets and beet juice can lower blood pressure is strong and supported by numerous studies. Since high blood pressure is common among people who have diabetes, including beets in the diet is especially important for this group of individuals.
A new study appearing in the Journal of Human Hypertension reported on the effect of raw beet juice versus cooked beets in lowering blood pressure. Twenty-four adults with hypertension took either 250 milliliters of raw beet juice or 250 grams of cooked beets daily for two weeks, followed by a two-week washout period, after which they switched to the beet intervention they had not tried during the first test.
Both raw beet juice and cooked beets resulted in improvements in blood pressure as well as factors associated with hypertension, such as systemic inflammation, endothelial function, C-reactive protein, flow-mediated dilation, and tumor necrosis factor alpha, among others. However, raw beet juice did provide better antihypertensive results.
The ability of beets to lower blood pressure is associated with the presence of nitrates, a substance that converts to nitrites once in the body. Nitrites enter the blood stream, where nitric oxide synthesis occurs. Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to widen, which in turn improves blood flow and lowers pressure.
Beets improve exercise tolerance
A healthy shot of beet juice every day could also improve exercise tolerance and performance. Since exercise is especially important for people who have diabetes and who want to lose weight, anything that can make physical activity better is welcomed!
A recent study appearing in the American Journal of Physiology examined the impact of beet juice on various heart- and exercise-related factors, including endothelial function, cardiac output, and work of the heart. The researchers found that compared with beet juice devoid of nitrates, regular beet juice lowered vascular resistance at rest and during exercise and enhanced oxygen delivery, “such that exercise can be performed at a given workload for a longer period of time before the onset of fatigue.”
Enjoying beet juice and beets
You can buy beet juice already prepared or make your own. In either case, the beet juice can be enjoyed as is or mixed into smoothies or vegetable juice cocktails.
If you have a juicer or food processor, you can try any of these beet juice recipes. Don’t try beet juice without added ingredients; it’s not a pleasant taste for most people!
- ne large beet, two medium apples, and a ½ inch slice of ginger
- One large beet, 1 cup blueberries, 1 apple, and ice
- One large beet, three carrots, two stalks of celery, and ice
- One large beet, 2 cups purple grapes, 1 apple, ice
- One large beet, 1 orange, 2 carrots, ice
Peel the beets before putting them into the processor. Add the ice to the finished product or, if you prefer, you can add a few cubes while you are processing the juice, which will make the juice thinner.
If you are at a loss for how to enjoy beets in your diet, I've got a solution. Here are 30 beet recipes to whet your appetite.
Be sure to talk to a healthcare professional before including beet juice in your diet. The nitrates in beets could reduce the effectiveness of medications that contain nitrite, such as those used to treat angina, or drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction.
Also be aware that eating beets or drinking beet juice can cause your urine to turn reddish and your stool to have red streaks. These are normal results of ingesting beets and not of concern. (However, if you need to provide a urine or stool sample and you’ve consumed beets, let your doctor know.)
Asgary S et al. Improvement in hypertension, endothelial function and systemic inflammation following short-term supplementation with red beet (Beta vulgaris L) juice: a randomized crossover pilot study. Journal of Human Hypertension 2016 Jun 9
Lee JS et al. Effects of chronic dietary nitrate supplementation on the hemodynamic response to dynamic exercise. American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 2015 Sep; 309(5): R459-66
The World’s Healthiest Foods. Beets
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