Beet blood pressure

Beetroot makes a tasty and colourful addition to your salad but it also offers a range of health benefits. It has been shown to be good for your brain, to boost physical performance, and a new study supports previous research showing that it can lower blood pressure.

Beetroot has a long history as a cleansing and purifying food for the blood, liver, gallbladder and digestion. It is an excellent source of betaine which helps keep bile flowing as well as soluble fibre and antioxidants. In recent times a lot of research on beetroot has centred around the fact that it is a good source of nitrate.

In one study MRIs showed that after having the beetroot juice there was an increase in blood flow to white matter in the frontal lobes of the brains. These are the areas of the brain associated with dementia and loss of other mental functions. The reason that beetroot juice had this effect was again due to its high nitrate content.

Another study had competitive-level cyclists undertake two trial rides over 2.5 miles and ten miles. All of the cyclists did each time trial twice. On one occasion they were given 500ml of beetroot juice to drink before the trial. On the other occasion they were given 500ml of beetroot juice but this time the juice had had its nitrate removed. The results showed that cyclists who had beetroot juice with nitrate were on average eleven seconds faster over the 2.5 mile distance and 45 seconds faster over the ten mile distance.

So it well proven that the nitrate levels in beetroot have a beneficial effect on blood flow. Other research has shown that these effects extend to lowering blood pressure but the question is how much do you need?

For the new study the participants all had a systolic blood pressure (the higher number in your reading) of between 140 to 159. This is high but the subjects did not have other medical problems and were not on any medication for their high blood pressure (hypertension). The subjects drank 250ml of beetroot juice or water, and over the following 24 hours, had their blood pressure observed. About 0.2g of dietary nitrate was contained in the beetroot juice, the same you would find in two beetroots.

The participants who consumed this amount of beetroot juice experienced an average ten-point drop in their blood pressure levels for the next 24 hours.

This is not a lot of nitrate to achieve such an impressive result and if the effect can be maintained in the long term beetroot and beetroot juice could be a viable option for lowering blood pressure.

Do we need to say that the best form of beet is the organic one that you have grown in your own garden as opposed to the one from a can? Thought not.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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