Few things in the world are naturally purple: hydrangeas, grapes, Barney (arguably), and… beets.
Beets get their purple-red color from antioxidants called betalains. Between these free radical fighters, critical minerals, healthy complex carbs, and plenty of fiber, these vibrant veggies offer lots of benefits to write home about. We’re talking potential for lower blood pressure, weight loss, better athletic performance, and more.
It doesn’t hurt that their earthy taste and royal hue can jazz up salads, veggie side dishes, and even cupcakes (yep, seriously).
For all the deets on beets (sans the bears and Battlestar Galactica), read on. We’ve got the health benefits of these root veggies, plus tons of tasty ways to use ’em.
One cup (135 grams) of cooked beets offers the following nutrients:
- Calories: 76
- Protein: 2.8 grams
- Fat: 0.3 grams
- Carbs: 16.9 grams
- Fiber: 4.9 grams
- Sodium: 343 milligrams
- Vitamin C: 7.3 milligrams
- Potassium: 575 milligrams
- Magnesium: 40 milligrams
- Folate: 163 micrograms
With their ruby color and quasi-heart shape, it’s somehow fitting that beets would be good for your ticker. And it doesn’t take long to experience the positive effects of beets on your heart. Many studies have found that drinking beet juice helps lower blood pressure, which may benefit heart health.
In the long term, beets could help reduce BP because of their content of nitrates, organic compounds that dilate blood vessels. Consistently keeping your blood pressure in the healthy range is a major factor in preventing cardiovascular disease.
Oh, and did we mention their fiber content? The crunchy red veggies are officially a good source of fiber, with almost 5 grams in a 1-cup serving. Studies suggest that getting plenty of this nutrient reduces your risk of heart disease.
If we’re talking fiber, you know we’ve gotta talk about its other, better-known benefit: getting things moving in the digestive department. (You get it: It helps you poop.)
The fact that fiber helps you check off the daily BM box isn’t just satisfying on a, you know, personal level — it also feeds a healthy microbiome.
Simply getting more fiber in your diet can change the bacteria in your gut for the better, as it gives friendly bacteria the “food” they need to flourish. Considering all the benefits associated with a thriving microbiome — like reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and potentially improved mental health — we say beet it up.
Remember that antioxidant we talked about, betalain? The betalain concentration in beets is higher than in most vegetables (which is why its name sounds a lot like “beet” — it comes from the Latin word for this veggie).
A number of studies have found that betalains may offer cancer-protective properties. Research is limited on this particular beet benefit (and much of it has been conducted on animals and in test tubes), but who knows what the future may reveal?
Surprise! Betalain isn’t just a single antioxidant. Red beets actually contain 30 different forms of betalains. These phytonutrients vary by the part of the root they’re extracted from. But in general, they’ve been found to protect cells from free radicals, unstable molecules that may cause cellular damage if their numbers get too high in your body.
Research is underway to uncover how liver disease, arthritis, and cancer could all benefit from beets’ anti-inflammatory properties.
If you’re cool with quelling systemic inflammation (and who isn’t?), grab your veggie peeler and get cooking with an anti-inflammatory beet salad or side.
Heading out for a run or cycle? It’s not a stretch to say beets are rooting for you. The nitrates found in beets help dilate your blood vessels, which can increase your endurance. Nitrates help your mitochondria (your cells’ energy generators) become more efficient, giving you more oomph than usual. Thanks, beets!
Research also suggests beet juice may help reduce muscle fatigue during high intensity exercise.
Just note that if you want a Super Mario star-style power-up for your workout, you’ll need to consume beet juice 2 to 3 hours before hitting the gym. Its effects will likely wear off in this time frame.
Perhaps the gold-medal nutrient in beets is folate (aka vitamin B9). This nutrient is necessary for development of the neural tube, which becomes a baby’s brain and spinal cord. Pregnant people should consume foods rich in folate and take prenatal vitamins containing folate to reduce the risk of neurological development issues in their babies.
One cup of cooked beets packs 27 percent of the recommended daily allowance of folate during pregnancy.
Also, some research suggests that some people with graying hair tend to have lower levels of folate than people without gray hair. But more research is needed to see if there’s a real connection between getting enough of this mineral and turning into a silver fox.
Clearly, these winter root veggies pack a ton of nutrients, so there are plenty of reasons to get crunching away. Keep in mind, though, that beets are considered a starchy veggie. This means they’re higher in carbs than nonstarchy vegetables. Peeps who follow lower-carb eating patterns can enjoy beets but should keep an eye on portion sizes.
Also, don’t worry if you notice a scary-looking red hue when using the toilet post-beet salad. Beets’ powerful pigments can come out in urine and feces. (You’re not dying — we promise.)
For most people, beets’ sweetness — and potential for coloring your pee and poo — shouldn’t pose a problem. On the whole, they’re a super nutritious veggie well worth adding to your diet.
There are many simple, delicious ways to prepare beets. Here are a few to consider.
Ways to incorporate beets into your meals
- Crank out a veggie juice — like one of these colorful options — with fresh beets.
- Fire up the oven for a roasted beet salad with goat cheese and citrus.
- Try them raw, dipped in hummus or drizzled with vinaigrette. (Check out our guide to removing stubborn peels.)
- Boil, steam, or bake them until tender and sprinkle with salt. Instant healthy side!
- Whip up a one-pan root veggie-based dinner. (We’ve got loads of ideas.)
- Pop beets or their juice into a smoothie for extra nutrients (and bonus pretty color).
- Switch up the usual pickles by opting for pickled beets for snacking or as a barbecue side.
- Enjoy the unexpected with pink velvet beet cupcakes.