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I have been a big fan of beets and their health benefits for some time. I use beets as a major part of our Colorado Cleanse and as bile thinning agent for congested bile and pancreatic ducts. But the legacy of beets has gone far beyond its bile-boosting benefits!
Interestingly, red beet juice has become the preferred performance-enhancing drink for the Auburn College football team and, based on a handful of compelling studies, beet juice has even made it to the NFL imbibed by the Houston Texans as their pre-game drink!
Beets happen to be one of the highest sources of performance-enhancing nitrates. That’s right, nitrates from plants such as beets, celery and cauliflower are actually good for you, while nitrates found in packaged meats such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, deli meats, packaged ham, pepperoni, and salami are quite toxic.
Plant-based nitrates in the diet convert easily into nitrites, which have a powerful vasodilation effect. Vasodilation refers to the widening of blood vessels, resulting in better circulation, more efficient delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the cells, as well as improved physical performance. (2) Poor blood flow due to a lack of healthy vasodilation may be a factor in the decline of physical and cognitive function associated with aging. (2) Many studies are currently underway reviewing the potential health benefits of nitrites and beet supplements. (2) One study demonstrated that running performance was significantly improved by supplementing with beetroot juice. (1)
Beet juice has also been found to increase cerebral circulation to certain parts of the brain that govern executive function. (2) Execution function is what allows us to do things like organizing, planning, remembering details and managing time. As a vasodilator, the nitrates in beets may support healthy cognitive function and memory by enhancing blood supply to these specific areas of the brain. (2)
The vasodilation effects of beetroot have also been shown to support healthy blood pressure. In one study, drinking just 500ml of beet juice lowered blood pressure by 10 points in 3 hours, possibly due to the blood vessel-dilating effect of the nitrates in beets! (3)
Liver and Bile Boost
Beets are also very rich in B vitamins, calcium, iron and powerful antioxidants such as alpha lipoic acid (ALA). All of these support healthy liver function and bile flow. Poor bile flow is extremely common and is linked to weak stomach acid, inadequate liver detoxification and poor fat metabolism. (5) In one study, both beets and okra were found to attach to bile in the intestines. (4) Once the bile is attached to certain types of fiber, like beet fiber, their job is to escort the toxic bile to the toilet. This is important because bile carries toxic cholesterol particles, environmental pollutants and a variety of other fat soluble toxins it picks up on its journey through the liver and intestines. Without adequate fiber, up to 94% of this toxic bile can be reabsorbed back to the liver and back into circulation. (5)
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Beets also provide powerful liver protective support. In another study, mice who were fed beets for 10 days (2g/kg of body weight) produced a significant amount of enzymatic antioxidants. The mice who ate beets produced a large amount of the body’s two most powerful antioxidant liver enzymes, superoxide dismutase and glutathione. (7)
Blood Sugar Balancing Boost
Surprisingly beets, which are loaded with beet sugar, have been shown to help support healthy blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics. (6) Much of these benefits can be attributed to the high levels of alpha lipoic acid (ALA) found in beets, which seems to offset the effects of the beet sugar. ALA is both water and fat soluble, which allows it to penetrate any tissue in the body. For this reason, it has become a popular skincare ingredient. As an antioxidant, it allows the ALA to penetrate many deep tissues of the body and help resolve free radical damage.