Certainly, it’s a good habit to drink a glass of beetroot juice before running. Beets juice is a natural performance booster. The main reason for these athletic benefits are the nitrates in beets. Beets are among the richest foods that naturally contain nitrates.
Drinking beetroot juice has many health benefits
Beets are high in nutrients but low in calories…
How many calories in beets?
Beets contain very few calories. You can eat them without worrying about gaining weight. According to the USDA, 100 gr contains just 43 calories (1).
Beet greens are low in calories as well. Yes, beet greens are edible. 100 gr of beet greens contains only 22 calories.
If you worry about your weight or trying to lose weight, avoid pickled or canned beets. Pickled beets contain more calories than fresh ones. For instance, 100 gr of pickled or canned beets contain about 65 calories. Certainly, it’s good for you to avoid pickled vegetables. They may be for your health (2).
How many carbs in beetroots?
Raw beets are low in carbs. A small cup of 100 gr contains just 9.56 gr of carbs. Beet leaves contain even fewer. The same amount of beet leaves contains only 4.33 gr of carbs.
Are beets high in dietary fiber?
Most people fail to consume the recommended daily amount of fiber. We should consume at least 30 gr of fibers daily. Dietary fibers can decrease the risk of many health problems, such as hypertension, diabetes, or obesity.
Beets are a good source of fiber. Beetroots contain 2.8 gr of fiber per 100 gr. Additionally, beet leaves contain 3.7 gr of fiber.
Prefer fresh beets. Pickled beets contain only 0.8 gr of fiber per 100 gr.
What’s the sugar content of beets?
Sugar content is low in beets. A cup of beets contains only 6.76 gr of sugar. Furthermore, the same quantity of beet leaves contains only 0.5 gr of sugars.
On the other hand, pickled beets contain more sugars. Just 100 gr of pickled beets contain about 11 gr of sugar.
Can people with diabetes eat beets or drink beetroot juice?
If you worry about your blood sugar levels, the safest option is to consume lots of beet greens.
Nevertheless, scientists from Oxford Brookes and Newcastle University studied the effect of beetroot juice in insulin and glucose response (3).
The results showed no negative effect after drinking beetroot juice. On the contrary, beetroot juice may be beneficial. After consuming the juice, the participants showed better insulin and glucose response. Especially in the first 30 minutes… Polyphenols in beetroot juice seem to be vital for the low glucose levels.
To you worry about your insulin response? Avoid drinking beetroot juice, it has no fiber. If you consume the whole beets, you’ll consume fibers, as well. Dietary fiber inhibits blood sugar spikes.
Additionally, dietary fiber reduces cholesterol levels in diabetic patients (4).
According to the University of Sydney, beetroot has a medium Glycemic Index of 64 (5). On the other hand, beetroot has a really low Glycemic Load of 4 (per 80 gr). It means that beets won’t spike your blood sugar.
Beet greens have an even lower Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load…
To sum up…
If you have diabetes, you can eat beets. Prefer fresh beet greens, though. They are particularly low in sugars, have a very low Glycemic Load and are high in dietary fiber.
Do beets have protein?
Beetroots contain 1.61 gr of protein per 100 gr. Additionally, beet greens have 2.2 gr of protein per 100 gr.
Beets are high in vitamin C & vitamin B6
Beets contain vitamin C, vitamin B6, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and folate (vitamin B9):
|Beetroot||Beet greens||Pickled Beets||RDI||DV%|
|Vitamin C||4.9mg||30mg||2.3mg||75-120mg||up to 40%|
|Riboflavin||0.04mg||0.22mg||0.05mg||1.3mg||up to 17%|
|Vitamin B6||67mcg||106mcg||50mcg||130-200mcg||up to 80%|
|Folate, total||109mcg||15mcg||27mcg||400-600mcg||up to 27%|
Beets are a good source of iron & calcium
As you can see, beets contain many minerals.
|Beetroot||Beet greens||Pickled Beets||RDI||DV%|
|Potassium, K||325mg||762mg||115mg||2600-3400mg||up to 29%|
|Sodium, Na||78mg||226mg||149mg||less than 2300mg|
|Calcium, Ca||16mg||117mg||11mg||1300mg||up to 9%|
|Magnesium, Mg||23mg||70mg||15mg||310-420mg||up to 22%|
|Phosphorus, P||40mg||41mg||17mg||700-1250mg||up to 22%|
|Copper, Cu||75mcg||191mcg||116mcg||900mcg||up to 20%|
|Iron, Fe||0.8mg||2.57mg||0.41mg||8-18mg||up to 30%|
You should remember:
- Don’t waste any part. Eat beetroots and beet greens. They both contain essential minerals. For instance, the leaves of beets contain 700% more calcium, and 300% more iron.
- Prefer fresh beets. Avoid pickled canned vegetables. They lack of nutrients.
- Low in calories. Beets contain so many nutrients, but only a few calories.
Beetroots & beet greens contain iron
Beets are a good source of iron. Beetroot contains 0.8 mg of iron per 100 gr. On the other hand, beet greens contain 220% more… It’s easy to consume beet greens. In salads or in smoothies, for example.
Men need about 8 mg of iron daily. Just a small cup of beet greens contains 32% DV (daily value). On the contrary, women have increased iron needs. They need about 18 mg of iron daily. Women need even more iron during pregnancy. They need about 27 mg of iron per day.
Plants contain no-heme iron. If you’re a healthy person, eating a whole food plant-based diet, it’s rather difficult to experience iron deficiency.
Foods rich in iron (mg per serving) are:
White beans (8), dark chocolate (7), lentils (3), spinach (3), tofu (3), chickpeas (2), tomatoes (2), potatoes (2), cashew nuts (2), green peas (1), raisins (1), whole wheat spaghetti (1), pistachio nuts (1), broccoli (1), brown rice (1), and many more.
How to increase the absorption of iron
Beet greens contain non-heme iron. But non-heme (from plants) iron isn’t as absorbable, as heme iron (from animals).
Researchers published to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition a study showing methods of improving iron absorption (6):
- Vitamin C. Vitamin C can significantly increase iron absorption. Next time, add some lemon juice to your cooked beet greens. Additionally, you can add juice from any citrus fruit in your green smoothie. All citrus fruits are high in vitamin C. Beetroots, beet greens, spinach, broccoli, all have high amounts of iron.
- Tea, coffee, red wine. Avoid them when eating iron-rich foods. Tea, coffee, and red wine contain polyphenols. Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants, but unfortunately, they inhibit iron absorption. Scientists found an up to 83% reduction in iron absorption after consuming these polyphenol-rich beverages.
- Calcium. Calcium may inhibit iron absorption. So, avoid eating foods high in calcium, such as dairy, with foods high in iron. Scientists didn’t observe iron inhibition when the amount of calcium in a meal was less than 50 mg. Plant-based sources of calcium is a good choice.
Eat beets with a source of vitamin C, such as lemon juice. Avoid tea, coffee, wine, and dairy when consuming foods rich in iron.
Why pickled beets are bad for you?
Pickled beets aren’t as nutritional as fresh beets. Moreover, pickled veggies skyrocket the daily salt intake…
Salt is a key ingredient for preserving food. The food industry continues to use it extensively. For instance, just 100 gr of commercial drained canned beets contain 208 mg of sodium (7). Considering that we should consume less than 2300 mg of sodium daily, that’s a huge amount of sodium. Actually, a teaspoon of table salt contains about 2330 mg of sodium…
So, avoid canned vegetables, altogether. They contain excessive amounts of salt. People with high blood pressure should avoid canned vegetables.
Moreover, the pickling process destroys some micronutrients in the food, such as vitamin C.
Most noteworthy, pickled vegetables may increase the risk of (8):
- Gastric Cancer,
- Breast cancer,
- Esophageal cancer,
- Colorectal Cancer,
- Weight gain,
- Increased Body Mass Index,
- Increased Blood Pressure.
Drinking beetroot juice before running is good for you
Beets are high in nitrates and electrolytes. Beetroot juice is an excellent healthy natural preworkout beverage.
Drink beet juice before running as it’s a good source of electrolytes
Beet greens are rich in sodium (226 mg), potassium (726 mg), calcium (117 mg), and magnesium (70 mg). All these minerals are the major electrolytes. They are essential for avoiding leg cramps. We lose electrolytes through sweating. Therefore, if you’re a runner you better include beetroots and beet greens into your diet.
Consider, preparing a green smoothie either as a preworkout or as a post-workout meal. Additionally, you can add a banana. Bananas also contain electrolytes preventing leg cramps. You can freeze bananas for a creamier effect.
Can natural nitrates in beets actually help you run longer?
Beets are common foods high in nitrates. Just 100 gr of beets contain about 250 mg of nitrates. Beetroot juice is even richer in nitrates, as there’re concentrated.
Studies have shown that nitrates can significantly reduce the oxygen cost of submaximal exercise. Additionally, foods high in nitrates can improve athletic performance during high-intensity endurance exercise (9).
In 2012, a study published in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that showed the effect of nitrates in athletic performance (10). Eleven men and women consumed 200 gr of baked beetroot. These contain more than 500 mg of nitrates. Participants run 5 km. They consumed either beets or cranberries (as a placebo).
Researchers measured their performance. The results were shocking. When the runners consumed beets, they ran 5% faster. Seems like that the nitrates in beets helped runners run faster.
Moreover, runners ran faster during the last part of the race. During the last 1.1 miles (1.77 km), participants ran 5% faster. Also, the participants felt less tired when consumed the nitrate-rich beets.
What about nitrate supplements? We don’t recommend them. The long-term side effects are unknown (10,11).
Why not prefer foods? They are natural nitrate sources. The whole list of foods high in nitrates is here.
Consume beets or drink beetroot juice before running. Beetroots can be an excellent natural preworkout meal. Mainly due to their high nitrate content.
Health Benefits of Beets
Beets aren’t only good for runners and athletes. Everyone should eat them, as they have great health benefits.
Beetroots are a promising treatment. Especially in cases of oxidative stress and inflammation.
Beetroots contain powerful phytochemicals, called betalains. Betalains are a class of red and yellow pigments found in plants. They belong to the anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are powerful polyphenol compounds that have (11):
- anti-inflammatory and
- chemo-preventive activity
Seems like beetroots can help in cases of oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. Such cases are:
- heart disease,
- liver disease,
- arthritis, or
- even cancer.
Health benefits of beetroot juice
In many studies, scientists used beetroot juice, as the juice contains concentrated health-promoting compounds. Drinking beetroot juice has great health benefits. It may:
- reduce blood pressure,
- help with inflammation,
- avert oxidative stress,
- preserve endothelial function, and
- enhancing athletic performance.
So, is drinking beetroot juice before running beneficial?
Beets and beetroot juice are definitely good for you. You can eat the beetroot, beet greens and beet juice.
Beets contain only a few calories. On the other hand, they are rich in vitamins, minerals, natural nitrates, and other phytochemicals.
Their polyphenol content can help you prevent many chronic inflammatory diseases. Additionally, polyphenols may promote fast muscle recovery. That’s important for any runner or athlete.
Eating plant-based foods high in nitrates can boost athletic performance and stamina. People who ate foods that contained nitrates walked longer.
On the other hand, nitrates from processed meats are bad for your health. They can turn easily to carcinogen compounds. Better avoid them, altogether.