Beets 101: Everything You Need To Know!

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Beets (Beta vulgaris) are root vegetables that tend to attract fiercely divided opinions. Some love them; others cannot stand them. But regardless of the camp you belong to, there’s more to beets than meets the eye, from a culinary and health perspective.

What are the benefits of beets? And what is the best way to store and prepare them?

Health Benefits of Beets

Beets are loaded in nutrients, offering a wealth of health benefits.

They boast of an impressive nutritional profile that packs nearly all essential minerals and vitamins your body needs. [1] Beets are particularly rich in manganese, folate, copper, and potassium. All this nutritional value comes with low fat and calorie content.

Here’s how adding beetroot to your menu can improve your health:

Beets May Improve Your Physical Performance

Looking to improve your endurance or athletic performance? Beetroot juice is a delicious and healthy nutritional supplementation to give you an edge.

Beets are rich in dietary nitrates that appear to improve athletic performance. According to a systematic review published in the journal Nutrients, drinking beet juice could boost cardiorespiratory performance, improve athletic efficiency, and increase the time it takes to feel exhausted. [2]

For best results, it is advisable to down your beet juice 2-3 hours before athletics for peak blood nitrate levels. [3]

Beets Are Heart-Healthy

Studies have shown that eating beets regularly may reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure levels. [4]

This health benefit is linked to the high concentration of dietary nitrates in beets. [5] When converted to nitric oxide, nitrates help dilate blood vessels and reduce elevated blood pressure.

Beets Have Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Beets may play an important role in helping fight inflammation. Betalains in beets (which are phytonutrients that give them their rich pigment) have been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory properties. [6]

One study in the Journal of Human Hypertension found that drinking 8.5 ounces of beet juice daily reduced markers of inflammation in hypertensive subjects within a 2-week period. [7] And although there is a need for further research in humans, an animal study published in the Mediators of Inflammation journal demonstrated that beet juice reduced kidney inflammation [8].

Beets May Support Brain Health

Nitrates in beets are believed to increase blood flow to the brain, potentially leading to improvements in memory and decision-making [9]. One study reported a 4% increase in cognitive function among subjects who drank 8.5 ounces of beet juice for 2 weeks compared to those who did not. [10]

Beets are Good for Your Gut

Beets are a great source of dietary fiber—around 3.4 grams in a cup. [1] Fiber plays an essential role in digestive health by feeding friendly gut bacteria [11], protecting against gastrointestinal diseases, and helping with constipation. [12]

Beet Selection and Storage

Beets are not only nutritious but are also a culinarian’s dream. They are easy to work with, and their health-promoting properties make them a great addition to a balanced diet.

If you’re looking to savor their earthy flavor, add a pop of color to your plate, or tap into their health benefits, here are some pointers by Dani Spies to ensure to get the best out of beets:

• Red bulbous beets may be the most popular, but there are more varieties of the root vegetable—from striking candy cane beets to the more subtle golden and white beets.

• You can find beets any time of the year, but Dani recommends you snap them up at their peak season –typically around Autumn. At this time, they taste better, have more nutrients, and tend to be cheaper.

• For size, small to medium beets seem to be preferred. Bigger beets tend to lose their flavor.

• Beetroot leaves can be a telltale sign of their freshness. So look for beets that have their leaves attached. Plus, they’re edible. “If you can’t find beetroots with the leaves still attached, just make sure the tail is still intact and the root smooth and rich in color,” Dani advises.

• Proper storage is key to preserving the freshness of beets. If the greens are attached, cut them partially, leaving about 1 inch on the bulb. Store the bulb and the leaves separately in plastic bags and toss them in the refrigerator. This will give you at least 2 weeks of fresh beets to work with.

Preparing And Cooking Beets

It’s hard to beat the vibrancy and versatility of beets in the kitchen. They’re great raw, pickled, roasted, steamed, or even juiced. But beware, red beets are messy to prepare! They have the ability to stain nearly everything they come into contact with. But Dani has a workaround for that. “I highly recommend that you peel your beets after they’re cooked because it is a lot easier and a lot less messy.” She also suggests you use a cutting board you’re willing to sacrifice.

When it comes to cooking beets, there are tons of recipes you can experiment with. Dani’s personal favorite way of cooking beets is steaming the bulb whole until fork-tender, peeling them, chopping them, and tossing them with “2 teaspoons of your favorite vinegar, 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil, some salt, and pepper.” Store this in the fridge and just beet it when the urge for a delicious and nutritious meal crosses your mind.

Phytonutrients / Chemical Composition Of Beets

Beets are a rich source of various phytochemicals that contribute to the health benefits and unique properties of beets. The following is a detailed list of individual phytochemicals identified in beets:

1. Betanin: A glycosidic food dye that exhibits antioxidant properties and has been studied for its potential in Alzheimer’s disease therapy.

2. Glycine Betaine: Known for its role in improving memory disorders and has shown inhibitory activity against acetylcholinesterase, which is significant in Alzheimer’s disease.

3. Myricetin: A flavonoid with antioxidant properties, myricetin has been identified as a potential therapeutic agent against cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Folic Acid: This vitamin is involved in various metabolic processes and has been identified in beets with potential health benefits.

5. Vitexin: A phytochemical responsible for anti-corrosive effects, particularly in industrial applications.

6. Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C): An essential nutrient known for its antioxidant properties.

7. Niacin (Vitamin B3): Plays a crucial role in energy metabolism and maintaining healthy skin.

8. P-Coumaric Acid: A phenolic compound with antioxidant properties.

9. Gallic Acid: Another phenolic compound known for its antioxidant activity.

10. Ferulic Acid: A phenolic acid with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

11. Naringenin: A flavonoid with various health benefits, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

12. Apigenin: A flavonoid known for its potential in cancer prevention and as an anti-inflammatory agent.

These phytochemicals contribute to the diverse health benefits of beets, ranging from antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to potential therapeutic applications in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. [13][14]

Further Pharmacological And Medicinal Studies On Beets

Anemia Treatment and Hemoglobin Levels: Beets, specifically beetroot (Beta vulgaris L.), have been extensively studied for their potential in treating anemia, a condition characterized by lower-than-normal hemoglobin levels. This is particularly significant in women, who are often more susceptible to anemia due to factors like menstruation and pregnancy.

A comprehensive literature review conducted by Savira Oktavia Ainiyati, N. Nurdiana, and Nur Aini Retno Hastuti, published in 2022, focused on the impact of beetroot consumption on hemoglobin levels. The study synthesized data from various sources between 2011 and 2020, revealing that beetroot, with its rich content of iron, betalain, vitamin C, and folic acid, significantly enhances hemoglobin levels, thus offering a non-pharmacological alternative for anemia treatment. [15]

Another study, led by Synta Haqqul Fadlilah and colleagues in 2023, specifically examined the role of beetroot in treating anemia during pregnancy. This literature review, encompassing research from the last decade, highlighted the effectiveness of beetroot in increasing hemoglobin and hematocrit levels in pregnant women. The study noted that almost all interventions involved beetroot juice, with one unique study using beetroot ice cream. The high levels of folic acid and iron in beetroot were identified as key factors in its efficacy against anemia. [16]

Nutraceutical Potential and Anticancer Activity: Beetroot varieties, including Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla (leaf beet) and Beta vulgaris var. rubra (red beetroot), have been recognized for their nutraceutical potential. P. Ninfali and E. Antonini’s research delved into the bioactive phytochemicals of these varieties, particularly focusing on betalains, phenolic acids, and flavonoids. Their study demonstrated that these compounds, either individually or in combination, exhibit significant antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer activities, especially against hepatic, intestinal, and urinary bladder tumors. [17]

Beetroot’s Role in Metabolite Profiling and Betanin Content: Research by D. V. Sokolova, T. Shelenga, and A. Solovieva in 2023 explored the interplay between primary metabolites and betanin in table beet. Their study, which involved metabolite profiling and biochemical analysis, found correlations between various amino acids and betanin content. This research is crucial for understanding the nutritional composition of beets and for breeding strategies aimed at enhancing betanin content, a natural pigment known for its medicinal properties. [18]

Note; the original “Beets 101” video is no longer able to be embedded but here is the link:


[1] USDA FoodData Central:

[2] Effects of beetroot juice supplementation on cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes. A systematic review. Nutrients, 9(1), 43. (2017)

[3] Ergogenic effect of nitrate supplementation: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 52(10), 2250 (2020).

[4] Beetroot supplementation lowers daily systolic blood pressure in older, overweight subjects. Nutrition research, 34(10), 868-875. (2014)

[5] Dietary nitrate from beetroot juice for hypertension: a systematic review. Biomolecules, 8(4), 134. (2018)

[6] The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease. Nutrients, 7(4), 2801-2822. (2015)

[7] Improvement of hypertension, endothelial function and systemic inflammation following short-term supplementation with red beet (Beta vulgaris L.) juice: a randomized crossover pilot study. Journal of human hypertension, 30(10), 627-632. (2016).

[8] Beetroot (Beta vulgaris L.) extract ameliorates gentamicin-induced nephrotoxicity associated oxidative stress, inflammation, and apoptosis in rodent model. Mediators of inflammation, 2014.

[9] Beet root juice: an ergogenic aid for exercise and the aging brain. Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biomedical Sciences and Medical Sciences, 72(9), 1284-1289. (2017)

[10] Dietary nitrate supplementation improves reaction time in type 2 diabetes: development and application of a novel nitrate-depleted beetroot juice placebo. Nitric Oxide, 40, 67-74. (2014)

[11] Dietary fiber, gut microbiota, and metabolic regulation—Current status in human randomized trials. Nutrients, 12(3), 859. (2020)

[12] Health effects of dietary fiber. Acta scientiarum polonorum Technologia alimentaria, 13(2), 191-202. (2014)

[13] “The Insight of In Silico and In Vitro evaluation of Beta vulgaris phytochemicals against Alzheimer’s disease targeting acetylcholinesterase” (2022) –

[14] “Molecular dynamic simulation and Quantum chemical calculation of phytochemicals present in Beta vulgaris and electrochemical behaviour of Beta vulgaris peel extract as green corrosion inhibitor for stainless steel (SS-410) in acidic medium” –

[15] “Literature Review: Pengaruh Pemberian Bit (Beta vulgaris L.) Terhadap Kadar Hemoglobin” by Savira Oktavia Ainiyati, N. Nurdiana, Nur Aini Retno Hastuti, 2022.

[16] “Beetroot (Beta vulgaris L.) and Its Potential as an Anemia Treatment in Pregnancy” (2023).

[17] “Great Nutraceutical Potential of Bioactive Compounds from Beta vulgaris cicla and rubra” by P. Ninfali, E. Antonini. (2019)

[18] “Primary Metabolites and Betanin: Their Interplay in the Roots of Table Beet (Beta vulgaris L.)” (2023)

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