For years I've been drinking a homemade fruit-vegetable concoction for breakfast that almost always contains beets. Why? Because, beets offer a wide array of cardio-protective effects, which include helping to lower blood pressure, reduce homocysteine in the blood, and maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
In a study by the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, researchers found that those who drank 16 ounces of beet juice daily saw their blood pressure drop more than 10 points, and their pressure stayed lower for 24 hours. It is thought that the body is able to convert beets into nitric oxide (NO), a gas that dilates arteries and allows more blood to flow through with less pressure.
Exceptionally high in powerful antioxidants, beets are also recognized as one of the best foods to reduce homocysteine, an amino acid that's formed during the breakdown of the essential amino acid methionine. High blood levels of homocysteine are toxic and a major contributor to the premature aging of your blood vessels. Finally, all the fiber in beets helps prevent the absorption of dietary cholesterol, essentially soaking it up into a gelatin-like form that your body can't absorb. Fiber also cleanses the colon and decreases transit time in the intestines so that more cholesterol and toxins are eliminated from the body.
Drinking freshly juiced beets is a great way to reap the cardiovascular benefits of this super veggie. And if you use a blender instead of a traditional juicer to make your beet beverage, you'll retain more of the heart-healthy fiber in the beets. Just know that beets are loaded with natural sugar, which will stimulate an insulin response. So if you are drinking straight beet juice, I suggest eating a handful of organic raw nuts along with it. The protein and fat content in the nuts will slow down the insulin reaction.
But don't limit yourself to juicing beets. Include them in your salads, slide slices into your sandwiches, and wrap them into your wraps. Be creative in the kitchen and experiment with beet side dishes that include other heart-healthy foods. The recipe below, for instance, pairs blood pressure-lowering beets with garlic and olive oil, two other blood pressure-friendly foods. (Get more heart-healthy recipes.) With a daily serving of beets, you may just be able to beat high blood pressure naturally.
Beets With Garlic
- 6 medium-sized beets
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
Wash beets, trim off green tops, but do not peel. Boil until tender, about 30 to 45 minutes. Run cold water over the boiled beets, and when cool enough to handle, slip off the skins. Slice the beets and toss with the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper.
Makes 6 servings.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): Calories 106, Total Fat 6.9 g, Sodium 78 mg, Carbs 10.3 g, Fiber 2 g, Protein 1.7 g