6 Nutritional Benefits of Beets You Probably Didn't Know

This humble root veggie is loaded with goodness.

Plenty of people cruise by beets at the grocery store or consciously avoid them because they're not sure what to do with them. But there's no reason to be intimidated by this root vegetable just because it looks a little different or is unfamiliar. Beets, or beetroots, are definitely worthy of a second look—they're not only delicious, but jam-packed with powerful nutrients. They boast fiber, nitrates (the good kind), folate, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C, just to name a few. And to make things easier, canned beets, roasted beets, and beet juice are all excellent options for a beet-fueled health boost.

Beets come in several different varieties. Red and purple beets are high in an anti-inflammatory compound known as betalains (a phytonutrient found in plants), specifically betacyanins, which give beets their deep red color. Then there are yellow and golden beets that contain a different group of betalains, called betaxanthins. Finally, you can also find beet greens, the leafy top of the beet plants that are totally edible and offer loads of B vitamins.

Here are a few more nutritious reasons to give beets a regular part of your diet.

Beets play a role in lowering blood pressure.

Beets help your heart by lowering blood pressure. "[They] contain inorganic nitrates that the body converts to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps lower blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels," says Jennifer Weis, RD, LDN, founder and owner of Jennifer Weis Nutrition.

Beets are high in fiber.

Beets are very fiber-rich. Fiber not only helps your gastrointestinal tract stay regular, but also helps control blood sugar and even lower cholesterol. One cup of beetroots has 3.4 grams of fiber. (The American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of 25 grams of fiber.)

Beets give your brain a boost.

Beets boast nitrates—not the kind of nitrates found in some lunch meats, but the kind that turns into nitric oxide when consumed, which increases blood flow to the heart and brain by widening the blood vessels. This increased blood flow to the brain essentially helps keep it young and healthy. A 2017 study by Wake Forest University researchers found that, when combined with exercise, a supplement of beetroot juice "facilitates brain plasticity of somatomotor brain regions as compared with exercise and placebo alone," especially in older adults.

Beets keep your kidneys and liver healthy.

Beets have a detoxifying component called phytonutrients. These phytonutrients increase enzymes that help detox your liver and decrease stress on your kidneys. Keep in mind, however, that beets are also rich in compounds called oxalates, which can contribute to kidney stones. So eat beets in moderation if you're prone to kidney stones.

Beets reduce inflammation.

If you're plagued by inflammation, consider beets as a possible solution, as this veggie has proven to help reduce inflammation thanks to its antioxidant content (thanks, betalains) and other properties. In one study, researchers examined gum inflammation, headaches, and recurrent pain that interrupted participants' sleep and concluded that beetroot is a highly effective anti-inflammatory when all conditions improved.

Beets may improve exercise performance.

Drinking beetroot juice is thought to increase the body's nitric oxide levels, which can help improve blood flow, cardiorespiratory endurance, and muscle and lung function. If you're a fan of high-intensity exercise, you'll like these study results. In one study, researchers found that those who supplemented with beet juice had an increase in exercise tolerance and lower 'rate of perceived exertion' (felt they weren't working as hard as others for the same result) than those who did not consume beet juice.

How to Cook and Enjoy Beets

You have tons of options for preparing and eating beets. "They make great dippers (with hummus and guacamole), when cut into thin strips," says Sara Peternell, MNT, board-certified holistic nutritionist specializing in family nutrition. She also recommends peeling and roasting them in the oven with olive oil (just like you would potatoes), then sprinkling with fresh herbs and sea salt for a delicious snack or side dish. "Arugula, goat cheese crumbles, chopped walnuts, torn fresh mint or basil, chopped roasted beets, and a light vinaigrette is perfect for a summer salad," she adds.

Ashlee Inman, MPH, CPT, owner and founder of Mind Your Matter suggests you "try finely chopping al dente cooked beets and adding them to casseroles, tacos, and salads tossed with a healthy dressing." You can also bake or steam some beets and serve them alongside a meat-based main. And don't toss out those greens! "Beet greens can be chopped and sautéed with chopped onion and garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper," says Weis. She loves to pair beets with goat cheese, balsamic vinegar, oranges, and hazelnuts for incredible flavor.

Here are a few more beet recipes to try this week.

Beets With Brown-Butter Bread Crumbs
Greg DuPree

Beets With Brown-Butter Bread Crumbs

Tart sherry vinegar balances the naturally earthy sweetness of the beets, and crisp minced raw shallots pair well with their tender texture. But the real kicker is the browned butter bread crumbs! Get the recipe.

Beet Tahini Muffins
A mix of tahini and pure maple syrup lightly sweeten and flavor this breakfast muffin recipe. Grated raw beets step in for a twist on the expected, but zucchini and carrot work wonders, too. Get the recipe: Beet Tahini Muffins. Jennifer Causey

Beet-Tahini Muffins

Grated raw beets (use red or golden) stud these healthy breakfast muffins made with protein-packed and rich-in-the-good-fats, tahini. Get the recipe.

gin-infused-beets-1219foo
Greg DuPree

Gin-Infused Beets With Crème Fraîche and Rye Bread Crumbs

Rather than steam beets with water alone, you'll add gin, juniper, and rosemary to the pot, which infuse each bite with delicious herbal flavor. Get the recipe.

Mixed Grains Bowl With Beet-Ginger Dressing
GREG DUPREE

Mixed Grains Bowl With Beet-Ginger Dressing

A combo of rice, lentils, and quinoa form the base of the dish, topped with shaved fennel and creamy avocado, plus a photo-worthy fuchsia dressing made from beets, ginger, and kefir. Get the recipe.

Pink Hummus
Victor Protasio

Pink Hummus

Punch up homemade hummus—both visually and nutritionally—by adding a small, cooked, red beet to the food processor along with the classic chickpeas, tahini, garlic, and lemon. Get the recipe.

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