Eat More Beets to Support Heart Health

By Jen Morganti, ND

Beets may not be your favorite vegetable, but I have to ask—have you tried them fresh or steamed instead of canned? Once you try the fresh version, there is no going back! Beets are sweet and flavorful, and can be eaten raw, shredded on a salad, or steamed, with a little vinegar and oil or goat cheese. But they are more than just delicious; as their brilliant crimson color indicates, they are overflowing with nutrients.

One of those important nutrients is nitrate. Not the sodium nitrates used as a preservative in processed meats. This form of nitrate is good for you as it's the precursor for nitric oxide, the chemical your body makes to relax blood vessels and improve blood flow. Nitrates also power up mitochondria, the energy factories in cells that make ATP, helping to power muscle contractions and boost muscle function.

A small new study tested how beet juice can possibly help people with heart failure, a condition when the heart muscles lack power. The researchers measured the patients' muscle function not by testing their heart, but by testing their leg strength with knee extensions. They found that the beet juice boosted leg strength, specifically when the muscles performed fast, powerful movements. This is significant for heart failure patients because they may lack the necessary energy to do daily functions, like climbing stairs or simply rising from a seated position because their heart can't circulate blood efficiently.

Beets have a lot of other nutrients, including antioxidants and detox nutrients such as folate, potassium, and manganese. They protect the liver and support the detoxification pathways. For some people, they may turn urine a bit red, but it's only temporary. And please don't forget to use the delicious green tops; they are also packed with nutrients, such as vitamin K, lutein, and zeaxanthin for healthy eyes.

I know it's not realistic to eat beets every day, so you can also get them in juice or supplement form. Some products contain pure beet powder, and sometimes the beets are mixed in with other vegetable powders. Either way, there's no going wrong when you boost your intake of any vegetable!


1. Peterson et al., Circulation: Heart Failure, published online 15 July 2015.