Also known as beet, this root vegetable (and its juice) is back in fashion at the moment and can be seen on restaurant menus across the globe. This is mainly a result of the positive evidence on its health benefits discovered over the past few years. Additionally, beetroot is a local product and can be grown cheaply so it fits neatly into the trendy “organic” way of life which is now so popular in society. The greatest excitement is because of the impact beetroot has on improving physical endurance during exercise.
Key Nutritional Facts
Beetroot is naturally rich in nitrates which are associated with prolonged stamina. How do nitrates actually work? Nitrate in the body can be converted into nitric oxide where it gets involved in the modulation of blood flow, muscular contractions and cellular respiration which helps the body to use less oxygen. Nitric oxide is a biological messenger which, in the endothelium, triggers a signal for the smooth muscles to relax (blood vessels dilate). This particular study researching nitrate effect by the British scientists involved subjects drinking beetroot juice. At the end of the study physical endurance was prolonged by 16%. The overall athletes speed increased but the resting blood pressure was lower. Nitrates therefore protect against the damaging effects of hypoxia (lack of oxygen). High in nitrates are also spinach, lettuce, celery, cress and rocket. Basically, what we are saying is that nitrates are great for keeping going whilst exercising.
Another study has found a link between beetroot juice intake and increased blood flow to the brain. This is mainly due to the blood vessels widening effect brought on by the nitrates. Lower levels of blood flow in brain are associated with dementia.
Although not very high in any nutrients beetroot contains a little bit of everything. An Exception is folic acid (27% of DRV). The dietary intake of B complex in general has a role in stroke prevention. B9 contributes to a healthy pregnancy, prevents birth defects and boosts the babies birth weight. Recent studies have questioned whether or not the folic acid prevents any neural tube defects. More than half of American women have unplanned pregnancies, but an increased folic acid intake just before this would prevent NTDs.
Surprisingly B9 might also contribute to the prevention of language delay for children and even improve their language skills and behaviour. This assumption is based on the folic acids benefits on infant’s neurological development.
Young female athletes are at risk of developing irregular menses or even stop menstruating. This puts these individuals at risk of heart disease. Folic acid helps to dilate blood vessels therefore the vascular function can normalise. B9 also makes the hardening of arteries happen much slower.
Key benefits of eating beetroot:
- Prolong exercise endurance
- Improve physical performance
- Increase blood flow to brain
- Normalize vascular function
- Prevent birth defects
- Might improve child’s neurological development
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Slower the hardening of arteries