Beets: Health Benefits

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The humble beet, when steamed, boiled, roasted, pickled, borscht’d—but especially served raw—is nutritious and offers many health benefits.

Why Beets Are Healthy

If you’ve never considered beets for breakfast, snacks, or potluck food, these facts may spark your imagination:

  • Research has demonstrated that eating beets, especially raw, or drinking beet juice can lower blood pressure, and improve both exercise performance and blood flow to the brain—probably because of the high concentration of nitrates in beets.

Our bodies eventually convert nitrates to nitric oxide, a compound that relaxes and opens blood vessels.

  • Research suggests that the red and yellow pigments found in beets (betalains) may help fight arthritis, several cancers, neurogenerative diseases, cardiovascular disease, and liver disease.
  • Beet greens are also highly nutritious and also contain the carotenoid pigments beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, important for eye health.

How to Prepare Beets

Cooking beets won’t give you the same health benefits because heat destroys betalain pigments and hampers nitrates, but it’s still good for your health.

To preserve the maximum health benefits, grate raw beets into salads or steam/roast beets just long enough to tenderize them.

Beet juice is also a fantastic way to get the health benefits.

Finally, beet greens are delicious raw in salads or lightly steamed. 

Growing Beets

If you have even a little space, beets are easy to grow, even in containers. They attract few pests or diseases, grow quickly, and come in many shades of red, pink, striped, and yellow.

See our Beets Growing Guide.

Note: The betalain pigments in raw or cooked red beets may cause the urine or stool to turn pink or even bright red for a day or two. The amount of excreted pigment depends on the pH of the stomach and how long the food remained there.

About The Author

Margaret Boyles

Margaret Boyles is a longtime contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. She wrote for UNH Cooperative Extension, managed NH Outside, and contributes to various media covering environmental and human health issues. Read More from Margaret Boyles

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