by Cat, April 28, 2014 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
Is there a history of high blood pressure and/or heart disease in your family, or do you have these issues? If the answer is YES, you might consider a daily glass of beet juice (see recipes, below), or better yet, beet kvass (fermented beet juice). Or lacto-fermented (pickled) beets. Even roasted, simmered or steamed beetroot provide many of the same benefits (provided they are not overcooked).
But lowering blood pressure is not the only beneficial effect of this colorful vegetable. I drink raw beet juice or beet kvass for the health of my liver, as I have insulin resistance which can lead to fatty-liver. See Beets and Chard (About) for more.
- Includes: 1. Ginger Pear Beetroot Juice; 2. Power Punch (Beet and Apple); 3. Super-beet juice with ginger or habanero
- See also: 1. Beet Kvass (fermented beet beverage); 2. Beets and Chard (About); 3. Raw Veggie Juices for Juice Fast
- See also (other sites): 1. my articles on The EssentiaList (a sustainability blog): Health Benefits of Beet Juice & Beet Kvass (2), and What to do with beets – a nutritional powerhouse (3)
Beets for lowering blood pressure
The ‘secret’ ingredient in beets pertinent to blood pressure is nitrates, that convert to nitric oxide (NO) when absorbed into the blood stream. Nitric oxide is what saves the life of people who take nitro-glycerine at the first sign of angina or chest-pain that could signal a heart attack, because the nitro-glucerine converts to nitric oxide
Don’t let the concern that nitrites can be cancer causing (they are added preservatives in lunch meats, hot dogs, etc.) put you off from drinking/eating beets, because:
- nitrites are not the same as nitrates (tho they can inter-covert);
- nitrates in whole food like beets are not the same as those added to hot dogs; that is, they don’t behave in the same way when consumed.
Nitric oxide (NO) action in the body:
- dilates and relaxes blood vessels,
- increases blood flow,
- stops the adhesion of white blood cells to the lining of blood vessels,
- stops the migration of smooth muscle cells to the sites of atherosclerotic lesions (plaque-forming injuries), and
- decreases the tendency of the blood to clot.
Nitrates effect the dilation and relaxation of blood vessels, thus lowering blood pressure. Think of it as enlarging the diameter of pipes, allowing more liquid to flow.
Most of the NO in the body comes from the metabolism of proteins, but certain foods (like beets) can also provide it from the diet.
There has been a lot of research on this effect of beets; drinking beet juice (from beet-root) can lower blood pressure within 3 hours of drinking it, and the effects can last for 24 hours (3). How can it work so quickly?
Proponents of juicing believe that consuming raw foods as juice bypasses the need for the food to be digested before absorption, so the beneficial effect happens faster.
Other nutritional benefits of beet-root:
The ruby-red color of beets (beet-root) is the first clue of their antioxidant benefit; even yellow and orange beets have antioxidant benefits. The red-yellow color range in foods indicates the presence of different carotenes, of which vitamin A is the most well-known.
In addition to carotenes and nitrates, beet-root is also rich in other nutrients (1), but it is important to note that it is the synergy of all the nutrients in beets as a whole food that maximizes their health benefits. Consuming these nutrients in supplement form does not offer the same benefit.
- fiber (a type that is especially beneficial for the digestive tract and is believed to help prevent colon cancer, and support the cardiovascular system) (1)
- folate (a B-vitamin)*
- vitamin C
*Folate is the naturally occurring active form of vitamin B9; folic acid is a more stable form used in supplements, but is inactive until converted to folate by methylation. Many people have a mutated form of MethylTetraHydroFolate Reductase, the enzyme required to convert from folic acid to folate. This mutation makes the enzyme ineffective; people with this mutation must get their B9 from whole foods like beets.
Beets contain a precursor to glutathione, the prime detox agent in the liver that works to rid the body of toxins that can cause many serious health problems, including colon cancer. Sulfur-containing amino acids such as methionine, glutamine and cysteine are essential for the liver to make glutathione. Note that glutamine is not the same as glutamic acid, a component of MSG. Note also that while glutathione supplements are available, they are essentially useless because the body’s digestive enzymes recognize glutathione as a protein, and break it down before it can be absorbed. Therefore, it is best to get its precursors from whole foods in the diet, or take the kind of glutathione tablets that dissolve under the tongue.
Beets have also been observed to lower blood sugar levels (improve insulin sensitivity), making them an important food for diabetics and pre-diabetics.
Ways to consume beet juice (includes recipes)
Freshly juiced raw beets provide the maximum health benefits inherent in beets, but fermenting the beet juice (Beet Kvass) not only provides these same benefits but also provides the benefits of lacto-fermentation, provided the kvass is not pasteurized.
Similarly, lacto-fermentation of whole raw beets (Pickled Beets) provides the added benefit of lacto-fermentation – even if the beets are lightly cooked before fermenting.
Juiced beetroot is a major component of the raw juices used for a detox juice fast, but it has other health benefits as well. The following recipes are from an article on raw beet juice and it’s ability to lower blood pressure. (1) Note that a vegetable juicer is required to make these juices (to separate the juice from the fiber); if you use a blender or power-blender, you will get both the juice and the fiber.
Gingered Pear Beetroot Juice
- 1 medium beetroot
- 1 medium pear
- 2 – 3 large carrots
- 4 stalks celery
- fresh ginger root or ground ginger (to taste)
Process ingredients in a juicer. Stir, and enjoy!
- 1 medium beetroot
- 2 medium apples (Granny Smith)
- ¼ of a lemon (including rind)
- ¼ of a lime (including rind)
- 2 oranges (peeled)
Process ingredients in a juicer. Stir, and enjoy!
Super Beet Juice with Ginger or Habanero
This is from Superfoods for Super Health article, The benefits of beet juice (4).
Ingredients & Equipment:
- 1 cup chopped beet root
- 1 cucumber
- big handful of cilantro (with stems)
- quarter of a habanero pepper or gingery, to taste
- 1 carrot
- 2 green apples
- squeeze of lime juice
- Veggie juicer
- Press the above ingredients through a juicer.
- Add your beet at the beginning to avoid beet juice dripping at the end and staining your counter top.
- Pour into a jar and drink immediately or store in the fridge or freezer for later use.
From the article, “We use a little habanero to spice this juice up a bit … Hot spices are good for opening up the system and delivering the nutrients. As an alternative you can use ginger instead.
- Blood Pressure Solution
- The EssentiaList: Health Benefits of Beet Juice & Beet Kvass (essentialstuff.org/index.php/2014/04/28/Cat/health-benefits-of-beet-juice-beet-kvass)
- The EssentiaList: What to do with beets – a nutritional powerhouse (essentialstuff.org/index.php/2013/04/20/Cat/what-to-do-with-beets-nutritional-powerhouse)