Beets are an all-natural source of nitric oxide, a super-potent compound that improves blood flow by relaxing your blood vessels.
These effects make beets useful for everything from improving sports performance to achieving better sexual performance, plus overall health benefits like lowering blood pressure. Read on to find out why beets are one of the best superfoods for both performance and health.
1. Beets are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals
Beets are is full of essential nutrients like fiber, vitamin B9 (folate), iron, manganese, vitamin C, and potassium.
It also rich in various plant compounds, such as inorganic nitrate, betanin and vulgaxanthin (1).
2. Beets could help lower your blood pressure
Regular intake of beetroot juice can significantly reduce elevated levels of blood pressure. According to research studies (2, 3), people with high blood pressure can lower their blood pressure by consuming a diet that is rich in inorganic nitrates (found in abundance in beetroot juice).
A study conducted by a team of researchers in 2008 showed that the intake of beetroot juice can lower blood pressure level by nearly 3 to 10 mm/Hg in a few hours (4).
3. Beets contain nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide inside the body
Beetroot is rich in inorganic nitrate content which converts into nitric oxide in the body.
Nitric oxide is a biological messenger that passes through the arteries and sends signals to the muscle cells (present around the artery walls) to relax.
When the muscle cells in the arteries relax, the blood vessels dilate, resulting in lower blood pressure and increased blood flow.
4. Nitrate found in beets offers cardiac benefits
This can be backed by a study that was published in the American Journal of Physiology. The research specifically focused on beetroot juice which is rich in dietary nitrate content and found out how it impacts patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases (5).
The research found that dietary nitrate content found in beetroot juice helped lower overstimulation of patient’s sympathetic nervous system in patients suffering from cardiac diseases. This further helped in keeping heart rate as well as blood pressure normal.
5. Beets might improve cognitive function
Drinking beetroot juice regularly could help slow the progression of dementia and improve brain function as well. One study found out that beetroot juice helped improve oxygenation in the brain (6).
Blood flow to different parts of the brain lowers with age which leads to cognitive decline and increases the chances of dementia. However, chances of developing this condition can be lowered through regular beetroot juice consumption.
6. Beets can improve athletic performance
This improvement in performance and exercise duration is primarily because of dietary nitrate found in high concentration in this supplement.
Nitrates are known to reduce oxygen use when the body engages in physical activities by affecting mitochondria’s efficiency (7).
Studies show that increased levels of plasma nitrate can improve exercise tolerance, especially when athletes engage in long hours of endurance exercise and training. One study found a nearly 3% improvement in cycling time trial performance (8).
7. Nitrate from beets might help with erectile dysfunction
Since erectile dysfunction depends strongly on the ability of your body to redirect blood flow, a lack of a natural ability to produce nitric oxide (a natural vasodilator) can cause problems with sexual function and sexual wellness in men (9).
Careful observers will even notice the presence of beetroot and other nitrate-promoting ingredients in male enhancement pills and other sexual health supplements for men.
8. Beet supplementation might improve cognitive performance
Since beets help your body generate nitric oxide, which in turn increased blood flow by inducing vasodilation, beets also appear to improve cognitive function.
This was demonstrated in a study published in 2015 in the journal Physiology & Behavior (10). In it, volunteers were given either a placebo supplement or a beet juice supplement, then completed a cognitively demanding task.
The researchers found that the beet juice both increased blood flow to the brain and improved performance on the cognitive task. These findings suggest that beet supplements could be a potent nootropic, enhancing mental as well as physical performance.
Beet side effects
Beetroot is mostly well-tolerated by individuals. However, excessive use and consumption of beetroot can also have side effects on the body.
Overconsumption of beets could cause kidney stones. Beets are high in oxalates, and accumulation of this compound is known to form kidney stones (11).
Beets are high in FODMAPs, which could irritate your GI tract if you have IBS. FODMAPS are found in fructose form that are short-chain carbohydrates that help feed the bacteria in the gut.
In individuals with irritable bowel syndrome, it can upset the digestive system.
Beets can turn your urine red or pink, but this is harmless. This effect is just from your body excreting beets, and it will go away within a few days if you stop taking a beet supplement.
Whether or not you will get red/pink urine or feces after taking a beet supplement depends on gut flora, iron levels, and other factors that nutritionists don’t fully understand.
The effects are harmless, though, and only occur in 10-14% of the population, so this phenomenon isn’t something you need to worry about.
For most people, optimal beet dosage is 140-500 mL of beetroot juice, or the beet extract equivalent thereof. This is the range of doses that’s been shown effective across a wide range of research studies (12).
If you’re preparing your own beets, they can be baked or eaten raw. In addition, it can also be consumed in the form of a smoothie or a puree.
Beet benefits FAQ
Q: Should you take beets and caffeine together?
A: Some preliminary evidence suggests that beet supplements and caffeine can interact in a negative way, attenuating some of the improvements in blood flow that is associated with beet supplements.
This could be because caffeine induces a vasoconstricting effect, which reduces blood flow to the brain (caffeine pills are often used for headaches for this reason), while beets are vasodilators: they increase blood flow, which is a big part of their performance enhancing effects.
Q: How much beet juice is safe?
A: The safety of beet juice for health adults is excellent. No studies on beet juice for performance have reported any harmful side effects linked to beet juice. A few health conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome and people at risk for kidney stones, might be negatively affected by beet juice, but healthy adults don’t need to worry about these.
Red/pink urine or feces is a “side effect” that occurs in 10-14% of the population, but this is a harmless side effect. The real question is “how much beet juice is necessary,” and the answer to that seems to be at least 150 ml, and there’s no evidence that more than 500 ml is helpful or necessary.
Q: How do you take a beetroot supplement?
A: The optimal time to take a beetroot supplement to improve performance appears to be between 90 and 150 minutes before you exercise. In this sense, it’s a bit different than a pre-workout supplement you’d take right before going to the gym.
If you want the benefits of chronic beet supplementation, it appears that you need to take a beet supplement or drink beet juice everyday for at least 15 days to see the benefits. Most research on beets is related to acute exercise performance, so research on its long-term health potential is ongoing.
Q: What is a beet supplement good for?
A: Beets contain naturally-occurring nitrates, which help your body produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, meaning it helps your blood vessels relax and increases blood flow to your muscles and to your brain.
Nutritionists have found this property helpful on several fronts. First among these is improving athletic performance, especially in endurance events. The increased blood flow to muscles helps reduce oxygen consumption and increases your efficiency at submaximal intensities.
Cognitive performance improves with beet supplements too, thanks to the increased blood flow to the brain. Some research has indicated that this same property might even be useful for slowing the progression of dementia in older adults. Finally, beet supplementation has been used to reduce blood pressure, again thanks to its vasodilating effects.
Related: Our top beet supplement picks
Beets are an excellent and all-natural way to boost blood flow to your muscles and brain, improving physical and cognitive performance. On top of that, they might help improve erectile performance and