Beets and the Athlete
"Beets are nature’s candy, don't ya know" Ok, going way back to my kids cartoon days there. However, Doug does make a good point. Beets certainly are a sweet gift from nature.
Reduced Blood Pressure, Healthier Pregnancy, cancer prevention, GREATER SEX DRIVE... OK!
Both the beetroot as well as the beet greens are nutrient dense vegetables that offer excellent health benefits. Vitamins A, B, and K; antioxidants beta-carotene and beta-cyanine; folic acid, magnesium, potassium (essential for healthy nerve and muscle function), phosphorous, iron, and fiber are found in the beetroot. The beet greens provide fiber, folate, pantothenic acid, phosphorus and zinc as well as immune-boosting Vitamins A, C, E and Vitamin K, they also provide thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, manganese and calcium. Not too shabby, and for side effects, you're only looking at some pink urine.
Nitrates, which are found naturally in beets, are converted into nitric oxide in your body which help to relax and dilate your blood vessels, thus improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure. In fact, one study found that eating raw beets lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of 4 to 5 points. Drinking beet juice may help to lower blood pressure in a matter of hours, as reported by the World's Healthiest Foods
Beets cleanse the body, working as a purifier for the blood, and the phytonutrients, called betalains, that give beets their bright color may help to ward off cancer. Research has shown that beetroot extract reduced multi-organ tumor formations in various studies. Beetroot extract is studied for use in treating pancreatic, breast, and prostate cancers.
Beets are particularly beneficial during pregnancy, as the vitamin B and iron work towards new growth cells. Beets contain high amounts of boron, which is directly related to the production of human sex hormones and in ancient times beets were used as an aphrodisiac.
Improved Athletic Performance
Beets are a unique source of betalains, a phytonutrient that helps protects cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress, like say the stress of endurance training and repetitive motion on the body. Betalains are unique to the beet, and are also known to fight inflammation, protect internal organs, improve vascular risk factors and enhance athletic performance.
Beets are low in calories and high in sugar, though the sugar is released into your system gradually, as opposed to say, chocolate. Very few foods found in the natural world are as beneficial as beets in this regard.
Those who drank beet juice prior to exercise were able to exercise up to 16 percent longer. The benefit is related to nitrates turning into nitric oxide, which reduce the oxygen cost of low-intensity exercise as well as enhance tolerance to high-intensity exercise.
The science of beetroot extract
An Exeter University study looked at supplementation with inorganic nitrate using beetroot juice, and it's ability to reduce the O2 cost of submaximal exercise (<85% max heart rate) and enhance the tolerance to high-intensity exercise. In a double-blind, placebo controlled, study, eight men (age 19-38) consumed 500 ml/day of either beetroot or a placebo for 6 consecutive days and completed a series of moderate-intensity and severe-intensity exercise tests on the last 3 days.
On days 4-6, plasma nitrite concentration was significantly greater in the beetroot study group and systolic blood pressure was significantly reduced. During moderate exercise, the nitrate in the beetroot reduced muscle fractional O2 extraction. That means that the rate of oxygen leaving the muscle tissue was reduced - in fact, the study showed the pulmonary O2 uptake following moderate exercise was reduced by 19%. During severe exercise, the O2 uptake slow component was reduced and the time-to-exhaustion was extended.
The George Mateljan Foundation; What's New and Beneficial About Beets found online at Worlds Healthiest Foods: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=49
Mercola; Benefits of Fermented Beets found online at http://articles.mercola.com
J Appl Physiol (1985). 2009 Oct;107(4):1144-55. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00722.2009. Epub 2009 Aug 6. Abstract found online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19661447