Nutrition 101: Is Beet Juice the Next Super Food?

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
8/20/2009 6:13 AM   :  119 comments   :  73,107 Views



When I saw a new report last week about the benefits of beet juice, I thought it was worth looking into further. It was only after I did a little more investigating that I discovered, beet juice just might become the next marketing focus right behind pomegranates as a potential super food you should be including in your diet.


As we continue to look at some nutrition basics in our ongoing Nutrition 101 series, letís look at beets and see whether the benefits are real or nothing more than propaganda and if this is a super food worthy of marketing hype.



Beet juice contains a high level of nitrates, which are believed to have a variety of cardiovascular benefits such as inhibiting platelet aggregation, preventing ischemia-induced endothelial dysfunction, and decreasing blood pressure. A study published last year conducted by researchers at Barts and the London School of Medicine found that drinking 500 ml (a little over 2 cups) of beet juice a day can significantly decrease blood pressure. The research found that the benefit came from the ingestion of dietary nitrates that are contained in the beet. Now new British study has found that beet juice can help individuals exercise sixteen percent longer by increasing stamina. This can be a potentially wonderful benefit if your exercise of choice is endurance in nature.

Before you begin to order beet juice online or run to your natural health food store and pay top dollar for this new super food, there are a few points that you should keep in mind. It is important to note that the blood pressure benefits were found in healthy volunteers and NOT in individuals that suffer from hypertension. It seems unclear if the same benefits would be found in those individuals since there are many unanswered questions related to why hypertension affects some and not others. It is also important to note that the conversion of nitrates to nitrites and the roll of saliva, stomach acid and absorption which seemed to be important in the outcome are also all rate limiting steps that could affect how beneficial or applicable this research finding is to those suffering from high blood pressure.

We know that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can be beneficial to lowering blood pressure. Some believed that the reason they were helpful was their antioxidant properties while other researchers were unsure what exactly was responsible for their benefit. While it is exciting to think that nitrates may be a contributing factor, it is important not to jump in with both feet without looking a little deeper.

Vegetable nitrates are naturally occurring and present in small amounts and some are naturally higher in them than others are. The vegetables that tend to be naturally rich in nitrates include not only beets but also spinach, cabbage, broccoli and carrots. Whether vegetables grow conventionally or organically does not seem to matter when it comes to nitrate levels since the food does not discriminate between compost and chemical fertilizers. It is important to note that babies under the age of 3 months should NOT receive nitrate rich vegetables or fruits. This is one reason for the recommendation to wait until babies are over four months of age before starting solids. Also, babies should not receive drinking water or formula made with well water since it typically contains high levels of nitrates from ground water runoff. The risk for infants from high nitrate levels is there conversion to nitrites which can decrease the ability of the blood to transport oxygen which could be life threatening in some situations. Babies between 4 months and one year should receive a variety of solid foods and servings of nitrate rich vegetables should be limited in size and frequency.

The Bottom Line
Including vegetables and fresh vegetable juice is an important part of any healthy diet. While new research findings suggest that drinking fresh beet juice can increase exercise stamina and may have cardiovascular benefits, be aware of the potential for marketing hype and inflated prices for vegetable juice. Instead of buying over priced hype, try investing in a juicer and coming up with a nitrate and vitamin rich drink from fresh carrots, broccoli, spinach, cabbage or beets in a taste combination that you can include as part of an overall healthy diet. Enjoy your new drink at different times of the day and take note if you personally see a benefit in your performance, recovery or blood pressure before you succumb to the marketing or labels from those that seek to make a buck from your interest in improving performance, blood pressure or health.


Have you heard of beet juice or any of its potential benefits? Have you seen it anywhere or been tempted to purchase it?



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Comments

  • BONNYR
    69
    Next time you bake cake, using a mix, replace the water with beet juice. Besides adding vitamins etc. to the cake, it also adds a sweetness that makes the cake absolutely delicious! Everyone will think you made the cake from scratch !!
    As I don't have a juicer, I save the juice from the tins or jars of beets that I purchase for this purpose, Waste not, want not !!! - 8/21/2009   7:59:42 AM
  • 68
    My Uncle Frank used to put me on his shoulders and take me into his garden to pick beets. We would go to the outside faucet, wash them off and I loved eating them with him. I was three years old when this tradition started and I love beets in any form to this day. I would give anything right now for one right out of his garden!!! Have a great day......Mary Ann - 8/21/2009   7:44:55 AM
  • 67
    Never heard of the beet juice theory...would rather to eat beets thierselves....any veggie is GOOD for the body and now is the time of the year to load up on the fresh veggies - 8/21/2009   6:30:40 AM
  • 66
    I love fresh canned beets. But I'm afraid the only way to drink beets would be as homemade beet wine! And 2 cups sounds like just the right amount! - 8/21/2009   4:08:01 AM
  • 65
    I will give it a go - 8/21/2009   3:08:48 AM
  • AJCOELHO
    64
    I wonder if beet juice is good for diabetics? - 8/21/2009   1:17:31 AM
  • 63
    OK so they only way anyone can get me to drink beet juice is by double daring me. I do double dares, but to drink beet juice on my own...I love super foods and all of my Spark Friends will tell you so, but beet juice?? eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeK! - 8/21/2009   1:13:08 AM
  • 62
    Until recently, beets and green bell peppers were the only two vegetables I absolutely would not eat. But a friend roasted some gold and orange baby beets and I loved them! I've found that I don't like the large full grown beets (tastes like dirt) so I doubt I would like beet juice. - 8/21/2009   12:41:28 AM
  • 61
    I love raw beets.... I doubt I would drink just the juice or juice a beet.... I'd rather just eat it as is. - 8/20/2009   10:16:10 PM
  • 60
    I am glad to hear that there are other foods that contain the same healthful nutrients, because beets are among the very few vegetables that I just never took to. If I ever try beet juice, I'll definitely mix it with something else. - 8/20/2009   9:29:49 PM
  • YOWSER
    59
    Not big on beets. Will stick with POM.

    I'd probably explode on a superfood diet anyway. - 8/20/2009   5:48:22 PM
  • 58
    heard a little about it. i used to juice beets (and other veggies) for my mom who had cancer and her blood count was low. someone told her it would help so I did it for her. never put the stuff in my mouth so I can't say anything about the taste. The only thing i can say is, i'm sure it can't hurt as long as things are done in moderation if that is what a person chooses to do. - 8/20/2009   5:11:04 PM
  • JUST-AMY
    57
    I like beets! I'll just stick to beets... - 8/20/2009   5:08:36 PM
  • 56
    For the person who commented that Beets have a high GI, so she avoids them...

    the GI of beets is 64 which is considered "medium", but its glycemic *load* (a better picture of what a food does to your blood sugar) is 4 which is very low. So avoiding beets based on their glycemic index is unnecessary.

    http://www.mendosa.com/gilists.htm
    (love this site. It's for diabetics, but it's incredibly well-researched and informative) - 8/20/2009   4:04:04 PM
  • 55
    no and no don't like the taste of beets. - 8/20/2009   4:01:11 PM
  • 54
    I think it must have been Dwight Schrute funding those beet studies! :)

    I love beets...boiled with a *little* bit of butter and salt is my favorite, but I think I'll try roasting them instead tonight to preserve nutrients. Yum. I also like juicing them with carrots, celery, apples, ginger...the combinations are endless (and the taste of the beets is not strong at all in juice combos). - 8/20/2009   3:49:39 PM
  • 53
    I have a short list of foods I don't like. Beets is on the top. I keep trying them as I know they are very good for you. I've had a few beet dishes that weren't bad - a beet-citrus salad and hot borscht with mashed potatoes (soup). Like RAYLINSTEPHENS' dad, my dad ate cold borscht with sour cream that made it the color of Pepto Bismol!

    Pesha - 8/20/2009   3:22:53 PM
  • 52
    I like beets so I would try beet juice. This was an interesting article and I have even learned some things from the other comments. - 8/20/2009   3:11:49 PM
  • 51
    Here (Mexico) raw beet juice is very common and sold anywhere where you can buy fresh juice, but it is advisable to only drink it mixed with something else (carrot juice for example) 50%-50% because it is very strong and may cause you to have to run very fast and very often to somewhere you may prefer not to. For those of you who don't like the taste of raw beets, once it is mixed in with other juices, either fruit or vegetable, you won't notice the taste. - 8/20/2009   2:32:46 PM
  • SERENE-VANNOY
    50
    I love beet juice, but not by itself. My favorite is with carrot or carrot/celery/parsley/apple. The Juiceman used to say not to drink more than a half a beet's worth of juice at once, or it would temporarily paralyze your vocal cords, so I never did. - 8/20/2009   2:31:46 PM
  • 49
    My father has been eating Borscht forever! Beet Soup for the non-Jewish sparkers.

    I wonder if this would be considered beet juice? It comes with shredded beets and is manufactured by Manishevitz.

    I love beets but wasn't crazy about Borscht. - 8/20/2009   2:20:10 PM
  • 48
    Another thing to do before believing studies about "superfoods" or any other health claim is to check out who funded the study and how many people were included. A major brand name orange juice supplier once funded (paid for the study expenses) a study showing three cups per day of its orange juice (330 calories, 66 grams sugars) could raise HDL levels in 23 test subjects. Other food groups (cranberry growers, nut producers) have also funded studies that purport to show that their products have notable health benefits.

    In studies with few test subjects or that are funded by those who may financially benefit from more people consuming their products, keep an open mind about the products or look fot studies done by researchers who will not gain financially from doing the research. - 8/20/2009   2:18:59 PM
  • 47
    Everyone already talks about dark cherries, raspberries, blueberries, pomegranites, etc. It stands to reason that beets would provide much the same benefit. I love beets. - 8/20/2009   1:52:57 PM
  • 46
    Have not seen beet juice but I sure LOVE beets! - 8/20/2009   1:45:34 PM
  • 45
    I have a VitaMix and include beets, broccoli and greens (spinach, kale, chard) in my fruit smoothies every day. You get all the fiber that way. I've never seen the benefits of juicing and throwing so much of the food away. - 8/20/2009   12:44:14 PM
  • FATMOM1204
    44
    I love beets, growing up I would pull them from the garden and eat them right there (radishes too) It was an organic garden, but when I was 5-12 I never thought about rinsing my foods, lol.
    My friend has a large community garden and gives me fresh beets when she has them. MMMM, much better then beet juice IMO. - 8/20/2009   12:34:24 PM
  • 43
    Oh, I'll admit, I hadn't heard of the "beet" cure for weight loss yet. I'm not in the least bit surprized. EVERYONE seems to have the ultimate weight loss cure. So, no I won't be trying this juice. I don't like gimics.

    Mind you, I am eating more fresh fruits and veggies than I have in my entire life and I love it ! However, I HATE BEETS ! Which is the real reason I won't be drinking this stuff. Like pomegranates, I'm sure beets are very good for me. But, I still HATE BEETS.

    It's not an age thing either. I recently tried some beets and I didn't like them.

    So... no beet juice for me. ;)

    - 8/20/2009   12:08:23 PM
  • 42
    I like eating beets once in a while. I don't think I will ever be able to drink two cups of beet juice everyday. It is good to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables rather than go too far with one kind only. - 8/20/2009   12:06:39 PM
  • 41
    I'd much rather eat beets! yum yum - 8/20/2009   12:03:12 PM
  • 40
    I don't like beets, but while living in Mexico I had beet juice mixed with orange juice. It was good. I'd probably have to drink it that way. - 8/20/2009   11:46:18 AM
  • 39
    BEET JUICE Don't know about that - 8/20/2009   11:44:31 AM
  • 38
    OK I like beets and eat them often but to drink 2 cups of the juice, I don't think I could. - 8/20/2009   11:19:22 AM
  • 37
    I love beets...their pretty color is just a bonus. I like to make pickled beets. - 8/20/2009   11:18:19 AM
  • 36
    ewww i just wouldn't be able to drink that! Kudos to anyone that can! - 8/20/2009   11:14:58 AM
  • 35
    I have a JL juicer. I may par~steam the beets and then add them to the juicer with an apple, celery and a little parsley.... - 8/20/2009   11:14:19 AM
  • 34
    This is very interesting. I love canned beets but don't think I would drink the juice as like...an alternative to water. Especially 2 cups. Maybe in a smoothie? I'll have to think about this one.... - 8/20/2009   11:07:06 AM
  • 33
    I have always heard beets are high on the glycemic index and that they should be avoided. - 8/20/2009   10:59:18 AM
  • 32
    beet juice? I never would have expected. Maybe if I see it on sale at the health food store I'll give it a shot, but I'm weary I must say. A little stamina would be nice, but that could be fowl stuff. - 8/20/2009   10:50:09 AM
  • 31
    I'm growing beets for the first time and loving them baked, grilled and even made into juice in our new juicer. This is timely info for me. Thanks! - 8/20/2009   10:44:40 AM
  • 30
    I'm not sure I would care for the beet juice. I do have two pomegranate trees. I pick the fruit and freeze it and enjoy eating a half cup at a time. They are great. - 8/20/2009   10:42:22 AM
  • IGGLE82MUCH
    29
    I just added a new reason why I'm grateful my dad was so good at growing vegetables, we grew up eating fresh beets. - 8/20/2009   10:24:39 AM
  • WISTFULVISTA
    28
    Buyer Pee-ware Dept.: Fresh beets - and beet juice - have the potential to cause your urine to turn red, or reddish-purple, so don't be too surprised if you should peek at your pee and that happens...

    For my money, I'd rather have some fresh cooked beets. A cup delivers 3 gm. of fiber, too. - 8/20/2009   10:21:33 AM
  • 27
    I would like to see more studies on those with high blood pressure, then i might be willing to try it with my nose plugged i can drink it like when i was a kid. - 8/20/2009   10:13:55 AM
  • HOLLY_ROSE3
    26
    It's always been a superfood!! I have a juicer so that is my route. Only organic. - 8/20/2009   10:05:41 AM
  • 25
    I love beets...pickled, cooked, and especially borch ( beet soup pronounced borsh). I always new beets were high in iron but it is good to know the other benefits. - 8/20/2009   10:04:34 AM
  • 24
    2 CUPS of beet juice is an awful lot--& I like beets. Seems to me smarter to include beets among other veggies, accept them as food rather than as putative medicine, and go on living. "Super-food" sounds so much like 'super-man'--and just about as plausible in the real world.
    Great information--and good cautions! - 8/20/2009   9:55:43 AM
  • READYTOMOVE39
    23
    I love organic beets better than regular grown. There is a sweeter taste. I bake them...yummy. I also include in my juices...celery, apples, oranges, and beets...you can add more of course. But, a good way of having it if the taste is too bitter for you. - 8/20/2009   9:42:23 AM
  • 22
    wd-50 used to make a beet sangria which was only ok. It was a bit too earthy. I don't know how much beet juice I could stand to drink. - 8/20/2009   9:42:21 AM
  • 21
    I don't know about beet juice but I love my beets and beet greens. It's a common mid morning snack for me. with a bit of mayo if I'm feeling indulgent. - 8/20/2009   9:38:03 AM
  • 20
    interesting - 8/20/2009   9:35:07 AM

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