Beets are root vegetables that belong to the chenopod family, which also includes chard, spinach and quinoa. Beets contain unique pigments classified as betalains that display numerous properties beneficial to your health. No large-scale human studies have been conducted to determine a minimum intake level of betalains, but most nutritional experts recommend adding beets to your diet once or twice weekly. Beet juice is a more concentrated source of betalains, although cooked beets contain much more fiber. Many nutrients in beets are destroyed by heat, so you need to be careful when cooking them.
Beets are a rich source of phytonutrients called betalains -- red and yellow carotenoid pigments. Betanin and vulgaxanthin are two well-studied betalains from beets and both display strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties, according to the “Natural Standard Herb & Supplement Reference: Evidence-based Clinical Reviews.” Betalains have a special affinity for the nervous system, especially your eyes. Beets are also very good sources of folate and good sources of manganese, potassium, vitamin C and dietary fiber. Betalain pigments are found in some other foods, such as chard and rhubarb, but beets have the highest concentration.
Juicing any vegetable is usually a quick and convenient way of consuming lots of nutrients without having to chew any cellulose fiber. Beet juice, sometimes also called beetroot juice, is mild tasting and combines well with many other vegetable and fruit juices. Beet juice is known as a blood purifier due to its antioxidant and detoxification properties. Consuming beets increase your body’s production of glutathione, which helps your body detoxify by grabbing numerous toxins and pulling them into the colon, where they are evacuated. Beet juice might also improve the composition of blood by stimulating red blood cell production, improve stamina, dissolve kidney stones and reduce blood pressure, according to “Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet.”
Betalains and some other nutrients are reduced in cooked beets because they are sensitive to heat, according to “Nutritional Sciences for Human Health.” As cooking time and temperature increase, betalains and vitamin C content steadily decreases. Consequently, it’s best to steam beets for less than 15 minutes or bake them at lower temperatures for less than an hour to retain most of the nutrients. Cooked beets are much higher in dietary fiber compared to beet juice because the juicing process removes over 90 percent of the fiber. Dietary fiber is well-established as being able to reduce blood cholesterol levels, control hunger and promote regular bowel movements.
Drinking beet juice and eating cooked beets may turn your urine red. An estimated 10 to 15 percent of people experience beeturia, which is reddening of the urine after consumption of beets. Beeturia is usually not considered problematic, although it may indicate an issue with iron metabolism. Consult with your doctor if your urine turns reddish after consuming beets.
- Natural Standard Herb & Supplement Reference: Evidence-based Clinical Reviews; Catherine E. Ulbricht and Ethan M. Basch
- Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet; Tonia Reinhard
- Nutritional Sciences for Human Health; Stanislas Berger et al.
- Textbook of Functional Medicine; David S. Jones