Broccoli. Asparagus. Brussel sprouts. Some vegetables get a bad rap—mostly because our moms made us eat them when we were little. They’re the most unpopular foods on the plate and once we get old enough to make our own meals, they’re often left out on purpose. Unfortunately, most of these detested veggies belong on our plates, purely for the nutritional value they offer. The one that stands out among them all—the one with the worst reputation—is beets.
You might not have any love for beets, but once you learn the benefits they have to offer, it’s hard not to appreciate what a nutritional addition to your diet they can be. Here are six reasons to add beets to your plate at the next family picnic—not just to put a smile on mom’s face.
1. Inflammation fighting properties
So many chronic conditions have roots in inflammation, which makes it important to cultivate a diet that’s rich in inflammation-fighting foods. Beets need to be a staple in your fight against chronic inflammation. They’re extremely rich in betaine, an amino acid linked to anti-inflammation and anti-oxidation. Consuming beats regularly can help give your body a fighting chance against the aches, pains, swelling and tenderness that comes with a hyperactive inflammatory response.
2. Blood pressure regulation
Of the many veggies out there that are heart healthy, beets take a top spot. It’s because they grow underground and thus, are highly efficient at absorbing nitrates. These nitrates are converted to nitric oxide in the body, which then goes to work improving circulation, blood oxygenation and more. Drinking beetroot juice in particular has been linked to a drop in blood pressure in those suffering from hypertension. If you can’t stomach beetroot juice, consider adding beets to a smoothie!
3. Cognitive increases
Alongside better blood oxygenation, beets could have the power to improve your cognitive abilities. Better oxygenation leads to improvements in cognitive functioning, which can help everything from reaction times to problem-solving. Another study involving beetroot juice showed as much as a 4% increase in cognitive abilities among those who drank natural beetroot juice over the course of two weeks. You might not like the taste, but you’ll love the brainpower effects beets can have!
4. Enhanced performance
Rolling along with the blood oxygenation benefits, beets can help improve your athletic performance. A study among competitive cyclists found that eating beats or drinking beetroot juice improved athletic performance by as much as 15%! The cyclists were able to pedal harder and faster for longer, thanks to well-oxygenated blood. It should be noted that these effects tend to take place roughly three hours after ingesting beets—roughly the time it takes the body to process nitrates.
5. Healthier, smoother skin
The tremendous antioxidant properties of beets will put themselves to work safeguarding your skin against free radicals and other damaging molecules. Specifically, the phytonutrient betalain is linked to anti-aging and skin protection effects, and is measured to be greater than Vitamin C, which is widely advertised for the same purported benefits. If you’re struggling with acne, psoriasis or another inflammatory skin condition, adding beets to your weekly veggie intake could be a boon for your skin.
6. Keeps you regular
One thing that’s hard to ignore once you start stomaching beets is their effect on your bathroom habits. Get ready to get regular! Beets have about 3.5 g of insoluble fiber per serving, which your body will work hard to push through the system rather quickly. As it moves, it’s going to clear out anything else in your system that might be lingering around. Unfortunately, beets have a tendency to retain their reddish hue all the way through the digestive system. If you’re alarmed at a reddish hue in the toilet bowl after your morning constitution, remember that it’s just the beets.
Beets are a bountiful vegetable
Not too many people are going to say that beets are their favorite food—let alone their favorite vegetable. That said, it’s important to at least develop a tolerance for them. The health benefits beets offer are too great to miss out on!
If you’re still concerned about stomaching beets, start by adding some beetroot juice to your smoothies or missing cooked beats into a vegetable medley. You can also try a supplement infused with beetroot powder. As you get more familiar with the taste, explore different opportunities to add beets to your meals. They may not be the most appetizing thing on your plate, but they very well could be the healthiest.