In an effort to introduce more vegetables into the diet, we're going to take a closer look into beets and why you may or may not want to include them as part of your diet. Beets are a root vegetable like potatoes, and have a rich earthly flavor that tastes sweet to some, and like dirt to others. Included above is a recipe to help you get your feet wet and try it for yourself.
Beets are an excellent source of the following vitamins and minerals:
- Folate - helps to form new proteins and is also involved in fetal development.
- Manganese - an antioxidant and is also involved in carbohydrate, amino acid, and cholesterol metabolism.
- Vitamin C - is probably most famous for its role in supporting the immune system. However, it also helps build collagen, keeping skin and joints healthy; synthesize norepinephrine, an adrenal hormone; and metabolizes cholesterol.
- Vitamin A - includes animal sources (retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid) and plant sources (carotenoids). They help maintain eye health, and support immune function and wound healing.
- Potassium - helps to maintain the electrochemical gradient, which is what determines how ions move across a cell membrane. (1)
Vitamins and minerals are essential for our bodies to function properly, and in the proper quantities are critical for performance and recovery. In addition to important vitamins and minerals, beetroot can also be a potential ergogenic aid to exercise performance.
Although there aren't many studies investigating the effects of beetroot supplementation on exercise performance, current research shows a promising link between beetroots and exercise. Some of the effects include:
- Supplementation of beetroot juice has been shown to diminish the muscular fatigue associated with high-intensity exercise efforts, though it is not known if this is achieved by reducing fatigue and muscle damage and/or promoting muscle regeneration postexercise.
- Given that phosphocreatine resynthesis requires an oxidative metabolism, beetroot juice could help the recovery of phosphocreatine reserves and thus avoid its depletion during repeated efforts.
- Beetroot juice has been shown to improve the release and reuptake of calcium at the sarcoplasmic reticulum. This could help the power production associated with improvements in muscle shortening velocity.(2)
In addition, beetroot may have health-promotional properties including:
- Insulin Resistance
- Kidney Function
- Reduction in systolic/diastolic blood pressure
- improve vascular and endothelial function
- reduce blood glucose
- improve insulin homeostasis(3)
Beets are high in oxalates, which can lead to kidney stones. (4) If you've had kidney stones, it is probably a good idea to avoid beets. If you have low blood pressure, it may also be a good idea to avoid beetroot as it may further lower your blood pressure.
Beetroot can be a great addition to your diet if you aren't already consuming them. It contains important vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and also shows promise as an ergogenic aid. If for some reason you find that the shake recipe doesn't sit right, that's okay too. At the end of the day, it is important to get a variety of fruits and vegetables in all shades of the rainbow to ensure a broad consumption of vitamins and minerals as well as phytonutrients.
(1) Andrews, Ryan. “All about Vitamins & Minerals.” Precision Nutrition, 29 Oct. 2021, https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-vitamins-minerals#mn.
(2) Domínguez, R., Maté-Muñoz, J.L., Cuenca, E. et al. Effects of beetroot juice supplementation on intermittent high-intensity exercise efforts. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 15, 2 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0204-9
(3) Mirmiran, P., Houshialsadat, Z., Gaeini, Z. et al. Functional properties of beetroot (Beta vulgaris) in management of cardio-metabolic diseases. Nutr Metab (Lond) 17, 3 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12986-019-0421-0
(4) Contributors, WebMD Editorial. “Beetroot: Health Benefits, Nutrients, Preparation, and More.” WebMD, WebMD, 20 Aug. 2020, https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-beetroot#:~:text=Beets%20are%20high%20in%20fiber,reduces%20the%20risk%20of%20constipation.