Can Improve Athletic Performance
Several studies suggest that dietary nitrates may enhance athletic performance. For this reason, beets are often used by athletes. Nitrates appear to affect physical performance by improving the efficiency of mitochondria, which are responsible for producing energy in your cells. In two studies including seven and eight men, consuming 17 ounces (500 ml) of beet juice daily for six days extended time to exhaustion during high-intensity exercise by 15–25%, which is a 1–2% improvement in overall performance. Eating beets may also improve cycling and athletic performance and increase oxygen use by up to 20%. One small study of nine competitive cyclists looked at the effect of 17 ounces (500 ml) of beetroot juice on cycling time trial performance over 2.5 and 10 miles (4 and 16.1 km). Drinking beetroot juice improved performance by 2.8% over the 2.5-mile (4-km) time trial and 2.7% over the 10-mile (16.1-km) trial. It’s important to note that blood nitrate levels peak within 2–3 hours. Therefore, to maximize their potential, it’s best to consume beets 2–3 hours before training or competing.
May Help Fight Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is associated with a number of diseases, such as obesity, heart disease, liver disease and cancer. Beets contain pigments called betalains, which may potentially possess a number of anti-inflammatory properties. However, most of the research in this area has been conducted in rats. Beetroot juice and beetroot extract have been shown to reduce kidney inflammation in rats injected with toxic chemicals known to induce serious injury. One study in humans with osteoarthritis showed that betalain capsules made with beetroot extract reduced pain and discomfort associated with the condition. While these studies suggest that beets have an anti-inflammatory effect, human studies are needed to determine whether beets could be used to reduce inflammation.
May Improve Digestive Health
Dietary fiber is an important component of a healthy diet. It has been linked to many health benefits, including improved digestion. One cup of beetroot contains 3.4 grams of fiber, making beets a good fiber source. Fiber bypasses digestion and heads down to the colon, where it either feeds the friendly gut bacteria or adds bulk to stool. This can promote digestive health, keep you regular and prevent digestive conditions like constipation, inflammatory bowel disease and diverticulitis. Moreover, fiber has been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases including colon cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.