Two recent studies have brought the humble beet root vegetable back in style.
A small controlled trial in Melbourne Australia with 15 men and 15 women was published in December 2012 in Nutrition Journal. It found that a single dose of 500ml beet juice significantly lowered blood pressure, at least temporarily. The reduction was greatest for the men, lowering the systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 4 or 5 points.
In April 2013 a smaller study from London England was published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension. Eight women and 7 men with mild hypertension were given a single dose of 250ml beet juice or a placebo, and monitored over 24 hours. The beet juice lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in both men and women by about 10 points. The reduction was greatest after 3-6 hours but was still measurable after 24 hours.
The ingredient in beet juice believed responsible for the reduction in blood pressure is the nitrates which are converted in the body to nitric oxide (NO). See my columns #180, 181 & 182 from August & September 2012 on NO. Nitric oxide relaxes the blood vessel walls, lowering blood pressure. Other sources of nitrates include leafy green vegetables, especially spinach.
Beet juice has been used by athletes to increase endurance and has many other health benefits from the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants it contains. For example, beets are high in iron which I wrote about last week. There are some cautions however. Due to beets’ high oxalate content, people who are prone to kidney stones or gallstones should check with their physician before taking beet juice. An allergic reaction to beets is possible but rare.
Beet roots and leaves can be cooked but for best nutrition they should be juiced raw. You can juice your own beets, along with other vegetables like carrots or fruit like oranges and apples to improve the taste. Beet juice is also available in health food stores as concentrated liquid or dehydrated crystals. For best effect, take the beet juice on an empty stomach and “chew” the juice to mix it with saliva.
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.