High levels of nitrate in beetroot have been shown to lower blood pressure in subjects with established hypertension (high blood pressure). Nitrate oxide is used by the endothelium lining the blood vessel walls to relax the smooth muscle of the circulatory system causing vasodilation and increased blood flow.
A recent study published in Hypertension by Dr Amrita Ahluwalia (Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, UK) support the concept of dietary nitrate supplementation as an effective, but simple and inexpensive, anti-hypertensive strategy. They found that the nitrates in beets appear to be even more potent in patients with high blood pressure than those with normal blood pressure.
The health benefits of beetroot don’t just stop at lowering blood pressure. Beets are a good source of betain which is used in the pharmaceutical industry to lower homocystain, an amino acid that is associated with heart disease when it is in high levels in the body. Betain has also been shown to be protective against liver disease preventing fatty build up in the tissues of the liver caused by diabetes, alcohol abuse or protein deficiency.
When buying beetroot go for small to medium sized roots which have firm undamaged skins. Store them unwashed in the vegetable compartment of the fridge with the leaves trimmed a couple of centimetres above the root. The leaves are also very nutritious and can be eaten like spinach.
To retain most of the nutrients eat raw or boil with the skin on. Grate over salads or chop up and add to roast vegetables. I enjoy beetroot in a juice or borscht, beetroot soup, and have even used it to make chocolate cake.
The consumption of beetroot can cause pink urine with some people as the red colour component betanin is not broken down by the body. This is completely harmless and will pass once the food is out of the system.
In conclusion, let food be your medicine and include fresh beetroot in your diet as part of a preventative strategy against the deleterious affects of high blood pressure and overall ongoing good health.