Beetroots (or beets) are an extremely nutritious vegetable that can get overlooked, especially if you did not grow up eating them. Beet (Beta vulgaris) is a herbaceous vegetable that belongs to the Amaranthaceae family (1).
If you don’t already know, beets are high in nutrients and offer a ton of health benefits no matter how you consume them, even the beet juice. The leaves of beetroot in salads are tasty and good for you, too.
Keep reading to find out all you need to know about beetroot.
Table of Contents
- History & Facts
- Nutrition Facts
- Health Benefits
- Ways To Consume
- Potential Risks
- Frequently Asked Questions
History & Facts
Beetroot is believed to originate in India but was used by many in the Mediterranean areas and the Atlantic coast of Europe (2). Before then, ancient Greeks cultivated beetroot around 2000 BC. Originally, ancient Greeks didn’t use the roots of the beet and only ate the leaves. The root part of the beet was cultivated for consumption in either Germany or Italy, first recorded in 1542.
Traditionally, beetroot was eaten for longer life, as a laxative, and to cure fever. It was also believed to be used for binding and dressing wounds on the skin. Because of its rich color, it was often used for dying various items to give them a color boost.
You will find that when it comes to beets, there are several options to choose from. Beetroot, also called table beets are the most common type of beet you will find. There are numerous types of beetroot and most often are distinguished by their color, usually red, dark purple, yellow, white, or pink. Other types of common beets besides beetroot include baby beets, golden beets, red beets, striped beets, and sugar beets (3).
Depending on your preference, raw beets have more crunch and an earthier flavor while cooked beets are sweeter and softer. The variety of beet also alters the flavor a bit. Golden (or yellow) beets are typically the sweetest tasting.
Fun Fact:Betanin, which is derived from beetroots, is used to color tomato paste, sauces, candy, breakfast cereals, ice cream, jams, and jellies
Although beets contain the highest sugar content of all vegetables, they are still highly nutritious and shouldn’t be left out of the diet. They’re relatively low in calories yet high in important vitamins and minerals.
In one cup of beets, there are the following macronutrients (4):
- Calories: 58.5 calories (kcal)
- Protein: 2.2 grams (g)
- Fat: 0.2 grams (g)
- Carbohydrates: 13 grams (g)
- Fiber: 3.81 grams (g)
You will find similar macronutrients in one cup of beet juice (5):
- Calories: 62 calories (kcal)
- Protein: 1.8 grams (g)
- Fat: 0.2 grams (g)
- Carbohydrates: 14.6 grams (g)
- Fiber: 2.7 grams (g)
Summary:Beets contain a higher amount of calories and carbohydrates than other vegetables and they are high in fiber.
Vitamins and Minerals
You will find that one cup of beets contains the following vitamins and minerals:
- Calcium: 21.8 milligrams (mg)
- Magnesium: 31.3 milligrams (mg)
- Phosphorus: 54.4 milligrams (mg)
- Vitamin C: 6.6 milligrams (mg)
- Potassium: 442 milligrams (mg)
- Folate: 148 micrograms (mcg)
- Choline: 8.16 milligrams (mg)
- Vitamin A: 45 IU
- Beta Carotene: 27.2 micrograms (mcg)
Beet juice (one cup) (5):
- Calcium: 29.8 milligrams (mg)
- Magnesium: 34.7 milligrams (mg)
- Phosphorus: 34.7 milligrams (mg)
- Vitamin C: 6.1 milligrams (mg)
- Potassium: 317.6 milligrams (mg)
- Folate: 64.4 micrograms (mcg)
- Choline: 15.3 milligrams (mg)
- Vitamin A: 2.4 micrograms (mcg)
- Beta Carotene: 3.7 micrograms (mcg)
In general, both beets and beet juice are high in several vitamins and minerals, especially folate and potassium (4, 5). Folate is a vitamin that plays a key role in growth, development, and heart health (6).
Not listed in the vitamins and minerals are the additional nitrates present in beets. Research shows that diets rich in nitrates can have positive health effects, including lower blood pressure levels and decreased risk of many diseases (7). Beetroot juice is one of the richest dietary sources of antioxidants and naturally occurring nitrates (8).
Summary:Beets and beet juice are packed with several vitamins and minerals, all great for health. They also contain nitrates which have positive effects on health.
Improves Heart Health
As mentioned above, beets are high in nitrates. The human body can convert dietary nitrates, such as those from beetroots, into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide sends signals to the muscle cells around arteries and helps them to relax or dilate (9). This can then cause a decrease in blood pressure, which is helpful for those with hypertension. Studies show that beetroots or their juice can reduce blood pressure by up to 4-5 mm Hg over a few hours (10).
Studies have shown that eating more beets may help to significantly lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (11). Similarly, this effect is likely due to the high amounts of dietary nitrates. High blood pressure can damage blood vessels and the heart. Furthermore, high blood pressure is one of the strongest risk factors for heart disease, stroke, and premature death worldwide (12).
For these reasons, if you have a family history of heart disease or hypertension, it may be a good idea to start incorporating some beets into your diet. Beets may not only improve heart health but even improve cardiac function in those who already have heart problems.
Summary:Beets are high in nitrates, which convert to nitric oxide in the body and can help to lower blood pressure levels.
May Increase Stamina and Exercise Performance
Another positive of the dietary nitrates in beets is the effect it has on physical performance. Numerous studies suggest that nitrates can enhance physical performance, particularly during high-intensity endurance exercise (13). More specifically, beet juice is a great post-exercise option to help improve stamina and overall performance.
Because nitrates help increase blood flow throughout your body, and allow for greater oxygen delivery to your organs and muscles so you can perform better during workouts. Dietary nitrates have been shown to reduce oxygen use during physical exercise by affecting the efficiency of mitochondria (14). Mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell, which is responsible for producing energy.
If you’re looking for an easy way to improve your stamina, then beet juice is the answer. A recent study showed that when consuming beetroot juice along with exercise, there was enhanced neuroplasticity (15). This is when neural networks in the brain change through growth and reorganization positively. So not only is this helpful for exercise performance, but it could also be especially helpful for those who have a family history of age-related memory disorders.
Overall, consuming beetroots may improve running and cycling performance, increase stamina, boost oxygen use, improve brain health, and lead to better exercise performance.
Summary:Beets and their juice have been found to increase oxygen delivery to the muscles and organs during exercise, which allows for better performance and can additionally help with post-exercise recovery.
Ways To Consume
Beetroots are delicious raw but more frequently cooked or pickled. The beet is edible from root to leaf, also known as beet greens. Even the skins are edible. It is important to be aware, however, that cooking beets may reduce their natural levels of nutrients.
Here are some ways you can incorporate beets into your diet:
- Shred raw beetroot and add to a salad
- Boil them
- Cook them
- Pickle them
- Juice them and substitute them for a sugary beverage. Drink by itself or add apple, ginger, and lemon.
- Blend it into your favorite smoothie
- Roast them
- Add to your favorite soup
- Make it into a sauerkraut
- Slice them and make beet chips
Did You Know?:Beets are also known as the blood turnip.
Beetroots are usually well tolerated and part of a balanced diet. However, people with certain medical conditions may need to be cautious.
High in Oxalates
Because beets are considered high in oxalate, those who have a history of kidney stones or are at risk for them should be cautious when consuming them (16). Oxalates are a main contributor to kidney stone formation (17). Typically it is the beet leaves that contain the highest oxalate levels but the beetroot is still considered significant for containing oxalates also. It is important to note that eating a moderate amount of beets isn’t likely to cause a kidney stone in someone who isn’t already at risk.
Oxalates also have something called anti-nutrient properties. This means that they can interfere with the absorption of micronutrients (18). Consumption of beetroot may also cause your urine to become pink or red, which is harmless but often confused for blood (19).
May Cause Digestive Issues
Some people who are sensitive to carbohydrates called fructans may need to be cautious when eating beets or may need to avoid them altogether. Beetroots contain FODMAPs in the form of fructans, which are short-chain carbohydrates that feed gut bacteria (20). FODMAPs can cause unpleasant digestive upset in sensitive individuals, such as those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other functional bowel disorders. Persons who are sensitive to FODMAPs may experience unpleasant symptoms like gas, bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, and constipation (21).
Summary:Overall, beets are healthy for most people to consume and part of a balanced diet. However, people who are at risk for kidney stones or are sensitive to FODMAPs should be cautious and may need to ask a healthcare provider before consuming them.
Frequently Asked Questions
When is beetroot in season?
Beetroot can be found year-round, however, they are in season in most places from June through October. It is considered a cool-weather vegetable, often featured on restaurant menus in the fall.
How long do beets last?
One of the great things about beets is that they can last a while in the refrigerator and can be frozen for up to 10 months. They are best kept in the vegetable drawer in the fridge, in a well-vented plastic or paper bag. Fresh beets in the fridge typically last for two weeks. Don’t wash beets until they are ready to be consumed. Cooked beets can last for about 3-4 days refrigerated.
What is the healthiest type of beet?
In general, most beets are going to be fairly equal when comparing them to each other. One of the only differences is that they contain different plant compounds and certain antioxidants. Even canned beets have the same nutrient content as raw beets. The one thing that does change nutrient value is cooked beets. Raw beets contain more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than cooked beets. Like many vegetables, the longer you cook beets (especially in water), the more phytonutrients escape from the food and into the water.
Did You Know?:Albert Einstein famously hated beets.
Beetroots are a good source of nutrients, and fiber, and contain many plant compounds like antioxidants and nitrates.
Beets and beet juice have several health benefits which include improved heart health and enhanced exercise capacity, both of which are attributed to their nitrate content. Some studies have even shown that beets may reduce the risk of cancer.
Beets are sweet and earthy in flavor and especially delicious when mixed in salads. They are easy to add to recipes and use in place of common ingredients like hummus, chips, or blended into smoothies. Easy to prepare, they can be eaten raw, roasted, boiled, or baked.
Pick up some beets and start enjoying them in your diet today!