Beet Juice May Help You Work Harder at the Gym—But Is It Good for Your Health?
There’s a lot of talk around beet juice, and whether or not it’s good for you. Sure, beets are part of a healthy diet—but beet juice has an almost cult-like following, with drinkers purporting everything from lowered blood pressure to increased energy at the gym. Those are some pretty serious claims, so we decided to dig into the latest research to find out if this red juice deserves its health halo.
A study published last month asked cyclists to drink a concentrated dose of beet juice for a week, and then put them through rigorous testing simulating sea-level conditions and high-altitude conditions where oxygen is lower. The researchers found that the cyclists who drank beet juice had improved performance—in fact, they finished a 10k course 1.6 percent faster in both types of altitude conditions.
The researchers attribute the cyclist's success to a boost in nitrates from the beet juice, which the body converts to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is super important for our blood vessels—it relaxes and dilates them, allowing for better circulation, increased oxygen, and potentially lower blood pressure.
This isn’t the first study to show a connection between drinking beet juice and improved physical fitness, either. A 2009 study found those who drank beet juice before a cycling workout were able to pedal for 15 percent longer than those who did not. Additionally, a 2015 study published in the journal Circulation found a connection between the nitrates in beet juice and a 13 percent increase in muscle power in those who’d experienced systolic heart failure.
Beet Juice Benefits
Aside from the possible workout boost, beets are chock-full of essential nutrients like B vitamins, iron, manganese, copper, magnesium, and potassium (which can help balance sodium’s heart-damaging effects.)
A 2012 study found that men who drank a 16-ounce glass of beet juice temporarily lowered their systolic blood pressure by an average of four to five points. It’s worth noting, however, that the study was funded by a beet juice manufacturer. But there still may be some merit—another study published in Hypertension (which didn't receive funding from beet-juice makers) found that those who drank beet juice had a drop in blood pressure and less blood clotting three hours later, compared to those who drank water.
Beet juice may help prevent other types of chronic disease, too. Beets are rich in betaine and folate, which together can help lower levels of homocysteine in your blood. Homocysteine has been linked to heart disease, stroke, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Eating a diet high in nitrates (found in beet juice) may increase blood flow to the brain and decrease the risk cognitive disorders and dementia in older adults.
The Verdict on Beet Juice
While beet juice may not be a magic elixir, it certainly has some impressive health benefits that are backed by research. But the bottom line is that you can also reap these benefits from eating whole beets, which may actually be better for your health. Amy Shapiro, a registered dietitian for Daily Harvest, told Health, “When we juice foods, we remove all of the fiber from the fruits and vegetables, leaving the sugar behind, which can in turn create blood sugar spikes and leave you ‘hangry’ with a headache.”
To compare the nutrition, one cup or 8 fluid ounces of organic beet juice has 100 calories, 190mg of sodium, 23g of carbs, 2g of fiber, and 20g of sugar. A cup of sliced beets has 60 calories, 105mg of sodium, 13g of carbs, 4g of fiber, and only 9g of sugar.
By opting for beet juice over whole beets, you add on more sugar and slash the fiber content in half. If you prefer beet juice to the real deal, that’s fine; just make sure to watch your portions as sugar and calories can add up quickly. Additionally, if you’re trying beet juice as a way to help manage blood pressure or prevent chronic disease, talk to your doctor first to see what’s right for you.