Pop quiz-- What vegetable reduces blood pressure and increases blood flow to muscles? If you said Beets then you are correct!!
Beets are known to have natural nitrates which reduce blood pressure, increase blood flow to muscles, and reduce the amount of oxygen needed by your muscles during physical activity. Research was done by giving healthy volunteers a glass of beet juice to drink and then asked to run on a treadmill until they were exhausted. Surprising, the volunteers were able to exercise 15% longer compared to the group who was given a placebo drink. This research went on to further demonstrate that the health benefits extended to sedentary people as well. The sedentary participants who were given beet juice required 12% less effort to walk a given distance compared to those who consumed the placebo drink.(1) A separate study determined participant who had eaten a serving beets daily could run longer and faster compared to when they were consuming other vegetables (2)
So what are ways to add a little beet to your life?
1. Add it to a toss salad!
2. Juice it up
3. Mix it in a smoothie
But remember to keep the skin on while cooking. The skin helps to retain the water-soluble nutrients inside and once they are cooked, you can easily peel them off.
1. Lansley, Katherine E., et al. 2010 "Dietary Nitrate Supplementation Reduces O2 Cost of Walking and Running: A Placebo-Controlled Study." Journal of Applied Physiology 110: 591-600
2. Murphy, Margaret, et al. 2012. "Whole beetroot Consumption Acutely Improves Running Performance." Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 112: 548-52