4 Health Benefits of Beet Juice, According To Registered Dietitians
Three registered dietitians unpack the potential benefits that drinking beet juice can offer.
What’s in beet juice?
“Since beet juice is derived from a plant, it’s high in nutrient density,” said Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D.N. One 8-ounce cup includes 90 calories, 20 grams of total carbohydrates, and 19 grams of sugar, Frances Largeman-Roth, R.D.N, said.
“Medical and athletic communities have been praising beet juice for years due to its abundance of nitrate, which converts to nitric oxide in the body,” said Tina Ralutz, MS., R.D.N., C.D.N. “Nitric oxide aids in many body processes, including endothelial function and vasodilation [both related to cardiovascular health], mitochondrial function, muscle contraction, and cognitive performance.”
The juice also features betalains (plant pigments offering antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits) plus magnesium and potassium (minerals that support heart health), Largeman-Roth said.
How does beet juice boost health?
Beet juice can benefit bodies in multiple ways, both for overall health and athletic performance. Here’s a look at just a few:
The vegetable’s phytochemicals can inhibit inflammatory diseases, according to a 2021 narrative review of the scientific literature. “The juice’s high levels of antioxidants and polyphenols can neutralize free radicals, reducing oxidative stress and mitigating cellular damage,” Ralutz said. In the liver, betalains support detoxification pathways, increasing the body’s ability to process and eliminate undesirable compounds.
2.Improved cardiorespiratory endurance
During exercise, the body’s demand for oxygen increases. Humans breathe deeper to supply more oxygen to the muscles, Ralutz explained. The nitric oxide bodies produced from the abundant nitrates in beet juice helps make the processing of oxygen more efficient, to better supply oxygen to the muscles and improve performance.
3.Reduced muscle fatigue
Nitric oxide also “moderates the levels of oxygen and nutrients going to muscles, making them more tolerant to exercise and less likely to fatigue quickly,” Ralutz said. In fact, in a small-scale 2019 study, participants who drank nitrate-rich beet juice for five consecutive days demonstrated less muscle fatigue than those who drank nitrate-depleted beet juice.
4.Lowered blood pressure
“Nitric oxide has the ability to relax blood vessels, which reduces blood pressure and increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to areas in the body, including muscles,” Largeman-Roth said.
As a 2015 study found, this dilation (or widening) of blood vessels led to increased endurance and stamina, Kirkpatrick explained. “Because the heart had to work less, the athlete was often more likely to be able to extend the duration of activity,” she said.
And a 2017 study also found that, in addition to lowering blood pressure, drinking beet juice for 14 consecutive days decreased LDL, the harmful type of cholesterol, in participants with untreated hypertension.
What’s the best way to prepare beet juice?
If the beets you are using for juice are conventionally grown, be sure to peel them to avoid ingesting pesticides. If they are organic, you can leave the peel on. Regardless, always scrub the beets to remove any dirt, then rinse in cold, running water. Then, cut into smaller pieces to facilitate the juicing process.
To retain as many nutrients as possible, use a juicer with the ability to cold press. These models rely on pressure, rather than added heat or oxygen, to extract juice. In contrast, a juicer with a centrifuge — which consists of a spinning blade and mesh screen — will create heat. When heat is introduced to the raw vegetable, it can destroy precious nutrients, Ralutz said.
If you don’t have a juicer, place the cut beets into a blender and add a bit of water. Juice them, then strain the pulp, Ralutz suggested. Adding a splash of lemon juice adds flavor, plus a bit of Vitamin C.
If you dislike the taste of the juice, consider incorporating it into a smoothie. Or, to save time and keep the carbohydrate count down, try opting for a beet juice powder, which you can add to water or smoothies, Largeman-Roth said. She also recommended seeking out a product made from non-GMO beets only — and nothing else.
When’s the best time to drink it?
To enhance athletic performance by delaying the onset of muscle fatigue, try to drink the juice two or three hours before exercise, Ralutz said.
“Some studies have suggested there can be a cumulative effect when [beet juice is] consumed for a consecutive period of six to 12 days ahead of an event versus once right before exercising,” she said.
What’s the right amount to drink?
Always consult a clinician or licensed nutrition professional for the most appropriate dosage of beet juice, Ralutz said. That’s because the amount largely depends on each person’s goals and needs.
“For health-related concerns, like high blood pressure or peripheral artery disease, it is suggested that four ounces of beet juice twice daily can be effective at improving cardiovascular function,” Ralutz said. Start with smaller doses and increase incrementally as needed.
Are there reasons to avoid beet juice?
Individuals with certain medical conditions may want to limit their consumption and check in with a clinician or registered dietitian before starting a beet juice program, Kirkpatrick said.
“It has been suggested that too much [beet juice] can surpass the body’s threshold for nitrate, converting surplus nitrate into carcinogenic [or cancer-causing] compounds,” Ralutz said. “Research on this is limited, though, and more would be needed to say for sure.”
There are several additional reasons for caution. For one, “the oxalate levels in beet juice can lead to kidney stone formation or further kidney dysregulation in people with preexisting kidney conditions,” Ralutz said. For context, oxalate, or oxalic acid, is found naturally in many vegetables, fruits, and legumes. Consuming too many oxalates, and not enough calcium, can increase the risk of kidney stone formation.
Additionally, according to Ralutz, the juice can cause a rapid spike in blood glucose (sugar) levels due to its high carbohydrate content. “People with diabetes and other conditions that can change the way the body processes glucose should be mindful to drink it with a meal or source of protein or fat,” she said. Those with low blood pressure should also take caution, to prevent dangerous blood pressure levels, she added.
Finally, drinking the juice may lead to beeturia, a temporary condition where urine and stool can become pinkish or red, Largeman-Roth said. Though it’s helpful to note this isn’t a cause for concern.
Words by Dina Cheney