Why people dont eat much beetroot?

Beetroots are usually not on the standard shopping list, it can be tricky to come up with new ways to cook and eat them. However, you would be wrong to assume beetroot is hard to cook with. The guardian has put together 10 beetroot recipes that you probably never thought of here.

 

Beetroots are packed with nutrients and are fill of fiber.

The vitamin and mineral content of beetroots is impressive with;

  • Folate; DNA synthesis and repair. It encourages cell and tissue growth.
  • Manganese; Bone structure, metabolism.
  • Potassium; Nerve health, muscle strength, key electrolyte.
  • Iron; Oxygen transport. One of the most common mineral deficiencies.
  • Vitamin C; Iron absorption, immune system, maintenance of cartilage bones and teeth.

 

 

Phytonutrients, are often overlooked for their nutritional impact but can have some of the biggest impacts on overall health. Beetroots are packed with phytonutrients, some of the main ones are;

 

  • Betanin & Vulgaxanthin Gives beets their distinct colour and activates antioxidant defense mechanisms. Can also repair DNA damage. Study here.
  • Lutein & zeaxanthin; Important for eye health, protecting from overexposure to UV rays and is said to improve sight in dim light. Article with references to studies here.
  • Inorganic nitrate.  Found in leafy green vegetables and of course beets. Gets transformed into nitric oxide which has important athletic benefits. (keep reading)

 

That word nitrate has gotten a bad name, you might even be avoiding them.     (processed meat)

Actually, there is a lot of confusion around this. Firstly, there a two words that look and sound similar and are used interchangeably by most people. These being nitrate and nitrite, the main difference between them is one oxygen atom. Both can be used to preserve things, especially meat products. Nitrates also occur naturally in vegetables, like in beets!

Why people fear Nitrates

When eaten, nitrates also form nitrosamines, these have been shown in some studies to increase the risk of pancreatic cancers. However, another study showed that when nitrates are consumed from vegetables, there is no health risk. One reason given is that vegetables have other vitamins and minerals that inhibit the formation of nitrosamines, it’s unclear if this holds any scientific weight but makes logical sense. Nitrosamines may also be completely harmless. The more recent studies have poked many holes in the original studies linking nitrosamines to cancer.

To eat or not to eat Nitrates

The most recent research covered in depth here, Shows that there is no need to fear any nitrates, be it from vegetables or the ones added to meat. Just 4 servings of beets, can have as much nitrate as 467 hotdogs.  Nitrates also do not accumulate in the body.  As the example above would suggest, it appears very difficult to reach any sort of toxicity.

Some meat manufacturers claim to have nitrate free meat products, this is simply a marketing scam. Instead of adding artificial nitrate, they add a derivative from celery, which has just as much nitrate or more, than they otherwise would have added. The food label doesn’t have to say added nitrates because technically they added a celery product. If nitrates are in fact harmless, ( as they appear to be) then this is one marketing scam not worth worrying about.

Nitrates and nitric oxide seem to hold the key to increased endurance.

Nitrates are converted into nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide is a powerful vasodilator which can have many athletic benefits as a result. Some of the specific effects of vasodilation are increased blood flow to the muscles, and a stronger firing of nerve cells, meaning faster and stronger muscle contractions.

It was once thought that nitric oxide could only be produced via synthesis of arginine ( a amino acid). However, more recent research has found that dietary nitrates (like those found in beets) can be converted to nitric oxide in the body.

What exactly does an increase in nitric oxide do for a athlete? 

This study looked specifically at athletic performance after drinking beetroot juice.  The findings showed that drinking beetroot juice improved energy efficiency. Meaning that less energy was used to keep up the same speed.

This improved energy efficiency is coming from the process occurring in each cell’s mitochondria (the cell’s energy factory). Beetroot juice can make your mitochondria work better and more efficiently for longer.

Another study found that beetroot juice can increase the time it takes to reach exhaustion by 15% thus improving cardiorespiratory performance at the anaerobic threshold level.

When and how much to take? 

500ml to 600ml is where the most endurance benefits are. There is some anecdotal evidence, that even this much beetroot juice can cause stomach upsets in some people. Lower doses can be taken and athletic benefits have been observed at 300ml.

Drinking more than 600ml may have other health benefits, but no observable difference in endurance has been seen in doses higher than 600ml. This suggests that our bodies have an innate ceiling for nitric oxide saturation.

This study suggested that the best time to consume beetroot (juice) is 90 min before athletic activity. However, the same study also mentions that peak nitric oxide levels occur at 2-3 hours after ingestion. Therefore, the exact timing of when to consume beetroot for athletic performance would depend on exactly which sport/event you will participate in.  

Interactions and considerations.

 

 

 

 

The same study above discusses the effect of caffeine, and that it might have a negative impact on nitric oxide levels. Meaning beetroot juice or supplements that increase nitric oxide should not be supplemented together with caffeine. By negative impact, they are referring to negating the positive effects of the beetroot juice, and not necessarily suggesting any adverse effects. This, however, is more anecdotal, as the researchers suggest there has not been enough study on this to claim this interaction conclusively.