Beet is a flowering perennial plant that produces leaves and roots that are widely used as a food source in humans and animals. Beets are a source of vitamins A and C, iron, and other minerals, carotenoids and dietary fiber. Betalins are natural pigments (colors) in beets that account for the red color in beet stems and leaves. After eating beets, these pigments produce red or pink urine (called beeturia) in about 10-14 percent of people. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding feeding beets and other high-nitrate foods to infants younger than three months of age to avoid the risk of nitrate poisoning.
Human studies have tested the effects of beet on blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure levels. However, results are mixed. Early evidence suggests that sugar beet fiber may modestly lower systolic blood pressure in patients with type 2 diabetes. Additional research is warranted.
In a new study, researchers conducted two separate studies to evaluate the effects of beetroot juice on blood pressure. People with normal blood pressure levels were randomly assigned to drink 0 grams, 100 grams, 250 grams or 500 grams of beetroot juice; or to eat a control bread product containing no beetroot juice, a bread product containing 100 grams of red beetroot juice or a bread product containing 100 grams white beetroot juice. Blood pressure was measured over 24 hours and nitrate levels in the urine were measured before treatment and again two hours, four hours and 24 hours after treatment.
The researchers found that consuming beetroot juice was significantly linked to reduced blood pressure over the 24-hour period. The authors noted that the reduction in blood pressure was almost dependent on the amount of beetroot juice consumed. Additionally, the researchers found that consuming both the red and white beetroot juice bread products were significantly linked to reduced blood pressure. With the exception of the white beetroot bread, all beetroot juice and bread products significantly increased nitrate levels in the urine after consumption.
The authors concluded that small amounts of beetroot juice may reduce blood pressure. Larger-scale, well-designed clinical trials are needed to further evaluate these findings.
In addition to beets, many other foods have been evaluated for their potential effects on blood pressure. Numerous human studies report that garlic may lower blood pressure, and some studies have suggested that chocolate may lower blood pressure. More research is needed.
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