Why we’re big on beets: All about NO and the many benefits of beets
On top of being downright delicious, beets offer a great way to boost the performance of your most energy-intensive tissues, including your brain, heart, and other muscles. So, if you’re looking for the perfect training partner for your mental or physical workouts, beets have your back. And, if you’re looking for a natural way to support cardiovascular health and blood pressure, it’s hard to beat beets.
Beets for blood pressure: How do beets work their magic?
Did you know that the potassium in beets beats that of a banana? Drinking our brand-new BeetBiotic™, brimming with probiotics and bursting with bright flavors, is a convenient, quick, and refreshing way to replenish essential electrolytes and up your intake of fermented beets.
Beets are one of the highest dietary sources of nitrates, which your body converts into nitric oxide. This compound helps blood vessels relax, improving blood flow and helping to lower blood pressure.1 In fact, the health benefits of beets are so significant that the authors of a 2018 systematic review said beets “should be promoted as a key component of a healthy lifestyle.”2
By helping blood vessels relax and improving blood flow, nitric oxide also helps the body to move nutrients and oxygen to where they are needed in tissues and to quickly remove metabolic waste products. The upshot is that beets boost performance by increasing plasma nitrite concentrations, levels of nitric oxide, and more efficient use of oxygen in energy-hungry tissues.3,4
Nitric oxide supports immune function, wound healing, detoxification, and the production of hormones including insulin and growth hormone.
Nitric oxide can also help prevent blood from getting too “sticky” and prone to blood clotting, by inhibiting platelet aggregation. And it can impede smooth muscle proliferation. Together, these effects support lung health by reducing bronchial spasm, the risk of blood clots in the lungs, and even asthma symptoms.5 This is why the combination of glutathione and nitric oxide has been seen to help with asthma.6
Unsurprisingly, a lack of nitric oxide is linked to a whole host of health concerns, including diabetes, erectile dysfunction, high blood pressure, heart disease, and high cholesterol.7 And low levels of nitric oxide are thought to contribute to premature aging.
Interestingly, simply taking a few good, deep breaths can increase circulating levels of nitric oxide.8 One of the best ways to boost nitric oxide, though, is to eat fermented foods, such as beets.
Other foods rich in nitrates include arugula, cabbage, and garlic. L-arginine and citrulline, two amino acids, can also boost NO levels, which helps explain why L-arginine and citrulline have a reputation for supporting healthy heart function and circulation, immune activity, and healing. These are available as supplements. Produced naturally in the “Krebs,” citric acid, or energy cycle of the body, they create energy.
We got the beet: Click here for a user-friendly — and gut-friendly — recipe for fermented beets.
Why you can’t do better than fermented beets
Cooked beets are certainly tasty, but beets are high in oxalates and can cause problems for many. Fermented beets are low in oxalates, so in my opinion, this is the ideal way to obtain their many benefits.
- Fermented beets are packed with beneficial bacteria to help promote digestion and good gut health.
- Natural fermentation helps make the beets easier to digest, while also enhancing their nutrients so you obtain more of their beneficial compounds.9
- This means fermentation can “amplify the specific nutrient and phytochemical content of foods” and even create new phytochemical compounds with benefits for health.10
Beets have a long growing season. While beets grow best in cold weather, you can grow them from seed in early spring and harvest them in the late summer or fall. Like other root vegetables, they’re easy to purchase from just about any food market during most of the year — at least, here in the U.S.
However, knowing how to ferment, preserve, and enhance the benefits of beets and other root veggies could become even more important in the future if our food supply is threatened. Like our ancestors, I consider them “survival” foods.
If that’s not a concern for you, take advantage of the other important reason to ferment beets — to reduce levels of anti-nutrients (oxalates and phytates) so you can better absorb important minerals like iron, calcium, and zinc.11,12
As for anti-aging benefits and helping to prevent DNA damage, fermented beets can also help alkalize the body. They’re a rich source of phytonutrients and antioxidants that help seek out and destroy free radicals that can otherwise damage your healthy tissues.
- 1. Kapil, V., Khambata, R.S., Robertson, A., Caulfield, M.J., and Ahluwalia, A. (2015). Dietary nitrate provides sustained blood pressure lowering in hypertensive patients: a randomized, phase 2, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Hypertension, 65(2), 320–327.
- 2. Bonilla Ocampo, D.A., Paipilla, A.F., Marín, E., et al. (2018). Dietary Nitrate from Beetroot Juice for Hypertension: A Systematic Review. Biomolecules, 8(4), 134.
- 3. Wylie, L.J., Kelly, J., Bailey, S.J., et al. (2013). Beetroot juice and exercise: pharmacodynamic and dose-response relationships. J Appl Physiol (1985), 115(3):325-36.
- 4. Olsson, H., Al-Saadi, J., Oehler, D., et al. (2019). Physiological Effects of Beetroot in Athletes and Patients. Cureus, Dec 11;11(12):e6355.
- 5. Horowitz RJ, Freeman PR, Bruzzese J. (2020). Efficacy of glutathione therapy in relieving dyspnea associated with COVID-19 pneumonia: A report of 2 cases. Respiratory Medicine Case Reports. Volume 30, 2020, 101063. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213007120301350
- 6. Sahiner UM, Birben E, Erzurum S, et al. (2011). Oxidative Stress in Asthma. World Allergy Organ J4, 151–158. https://doi.org/10.1097/WOX.0b013e318232389e
- 7. Velmurugan, S., Gan, J.M., Rathod, K.S., et al. (2016). Dietary nitrate improves vascular function in patients with hypercholesterolemia: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Am J Clin Nutr, Jan;103(1):25-38.
- 8. Pramanik T, Sharma HO, Mishra S, et al. (2009). Immediate effect of slow pace bhastrika pranayama on blood pressure and heart rate. J Altern Complement Med, Mar;15(3):293-5.
- 9. Kim, B., Minsu Hong, V., Yang, J., et al. (2016). A Review of fermented foods with beneficial effects on brain and cognitive function. Prev Nutr Food Sci, 21(4), 297-309.
- 10. Selhub, E.M., Logan, A.C. & Bested, A.C. (2014). Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 33(1), 2.
- 11. Humer, E. & Schedle, K. (2016). Fermentation of food and feed: A technology for efficient utilization of macro and trace elements in monogastrics. J Trace Elem Med Biol, 37, 69-77.
- 12. Sokrab, A.M., Mohamed Ahmed, I.A. & Babiker, E.E. (2014). Effect of fermentation on antinutrients, and total and extractable minerals of high and low phytate corn genotypes. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 51(10), 2608-2615.