Beet juice may not be popular for its taste, but its health benefits are serious business, according to a recent study.
The study, which examined the effects of beet juice on 40 healthy test subjects, found that the participants performed better on cognitive tests 90 minutes after drinking just 450 mL of beetroot juice, as compared with a placebo.
The secret is nitrates – the placebo was a fruit juice low in nitrates, while beetroot juice is loaded with them.
“Nitrate derived from vegetables is consumed as part of a normal diet and is reduced endogenously via nitrate to nitric oxide,” the study explains.
“It has been shown to improve endothelial function, reduce blood pressure and the oxygen cost of sub-maximal exercise, and increase regional perfusion in the brain. The current study assessed the effects of dietary nitrate on cognitive performance and prefrontal cortex cerebral blood flow (BBF) parameters in healthy adults.”(1)
Nitrate can be found in leafy green vegetables(2), and beetroot juice is an excellent source of it. It’s notable that a single dose of beet juice can have an immediate effect on cognitive function, and it bodes well for people who are looking for a viable alternative to coffee or tea.
Nitrate And Exercise: A Powerful Combination
A 2015 study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that dietary nitrate could improve not only cognitive function, but physical performance during prolonged intermittent exercise.
They gave a group of athletes either a nitrate-rich or nitrate-depleted beetroot juice drink every day over the course of the week, then tested their performance on both cognitive and physical tasks. The nitrate group outperformed the nitrate-depleted group by a significant margin(3).
How Beetroot Is Good For You
“In recent years, the root vegetable Beta vulgaris rubra, otherwise known as red beetroot (herein referred to as beetroot) has attracted much attention as a health-promoting functional food,” one article states.
“While scientific interest in beetroot has only gained momentum in the past few decades, reports of its use as a natural medicine date back to Roman times. Today, beetroot is grown in many countries worldwide, is regularly consumed as part of the normal diet, and commonly used in manufacturing as a food colouring agent known as E162.”(4)
Nitrate Isn’t The Only Nutrient Beetroot is Rich In
“Beetroot is rich in several other bioactive compounds that may provide health benefits, particularly for disorders characterized by chronic inflammation… Recent studies have provided compelling evidence that beetroot ingestion offers beneficial physiological effects that may translate to improved clinical outcomes for several pathologies, such as; hypertension, atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes and dementia.”
Beetroot juice can be found in many health food stores and higher-end grocery stores, or you can make your own if you have access to a juicer.