May 13, 2011

Beet juice beats all health drinks!

I’d seen a few reports of late about the health benefits of beet juice. Yes, believe it or not, beet juice.

This week I got confirmation in the current issue of the University of California, Berkeley’s Wellness Letter. Beet juice, the letter says, is a source of nitrates which have been shown to dilate blood vessels, increase blood flow to tissue, reduce demand of muscles for oxygen, and inhibit blood clots. Beet juice also is rich in red-yellow pigments called betalains, which display potent antioxidant activity.

Here’s what they found from a sampling of recent findings about beet juice (but, they caution, the studies were small and the results preliminary):
  • Blood pressure. Two studies have shown that drinking beet juice dramatically lowers blood pressure, systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number), both immediately and long term.
  • Exercise.  Beet juice also may enhance athletic performance, according to two studies.  One showed that young men who consumed beet juice used less oxygen when walking and running, suggesting they were exercising more efficiently. The other found that men who consumed beet juice were able to bicycle longer compared to those drinking a placebo.
  • Brain health.  In a study this year from Wake Forest University, older people who drank 16 ounces of beet juice a day for two days showed greater blood flow to the frontal lobe of the brain, an area involved in skill such as planning and problem-solving (and the area particularly impacted by Parkinson’s). The Wellness Letter adds: “Beet juice won’t prevent or cure dementia, but perhaps future studies will determine whether beets can help improve mental function.”
Of course this latter report is the one that intrigues me as an oldster with a fear of losing my mind (hmm, where DID I put my mind?). But this study involved drinking 16 ounces of  brain juice a day, and I’d recently bought a 16-ounce bottle of beet juice at Whole Foods (the only local food store where I could find it) that cost about $5! I’d been mixing it with tart cherry juice, which also has gotten some recent health raves.

Interested as I am in brain health, $5 a day seems a bit steep, and a Google search didn’t yield any cheaper options. I did find beet juice powder, but can’t vouch for its effectiveness.

The Wellness Letter offers this advice: 

“Watch out for overpriced beer juice products and overhyped claims – that they can prevent cancer for example.  You can make your own beet juice in a blender and mix it with other juices.  If you don’t care for beet juice, another option is borscht (beet soup), served hot or cold, though cooking reduces some of the beneficial compounds.
Be aware that consuming a lot of beets can turn urine and stool a harmless red-purple color.  Also, beets contain oxalates, so people who form oxalate-containing kidney stones should avoid them.”

Gotta sign off now and head for the Safeway to buy beets for my blender. Whrrrrrrr! 


Greg said...

We'll try it. The good thing about not cooking beets is... they're pretty messy when you do -- removing those skins, getting that red stuff all over your hands and everywhere else. For brain health, it's worth a shot!

Nick said...

Raw beets? Maybe they're great. Still... Phyllis Richman, you still out there? How might YOU prepare beets? Cheers! 

green iris said...

Has anybody tried this? I did, and made a pretty big mess in the kitchen. I added a couple carrots and strawberries, which helped the taste. Prepare to spend some time on clean-up.

John Schappi said...

 Re clean-up time -- I can second that. I spent
an hour at the blender last night.  Chopped- up beets by themselves don’t
liquefy , at least on my old blender.  I kept adding a little water until
I finally threw in about a cup of water and got some results.  But then I
had to put the result through a strainer which took  forever (i.e. 10
minutes, which is forever for me)  But I did end up with two large beets
producing about 3 times as much watery juice as in the $5 Whole Foods bottle.
Tried it
this morning and it went down fine with my mix of beet juice, tart cherry
juice, and quinine water.  I also saved some of the glob from the strainer
and I may take a teaspoon of that a day. (Yuck! But if it brightens my dim brain, so what.) 

Then I tried my answer to most of life’s problems – one click on I'll have a new
blender in a couple of days.

green iris said...

I was relieved it wasn't just me, John. I made it again for lunch today. This time -- chopped raw beets, orange juice (better than water, I think), and a chunk of fresh ginger. It was pretty, and delicious!

Katrina Olsen said...

For the few who find it a messy task to juice beets,,,,,I use a Breville juicer, it's amazing. I just scrub the beets under
water, slice off the ends and cut in 1/2 & juice them. Mess free,
fast and no need to peel them. I throw in apples and carrots for extra
taste....Still there is the washing of the juicer, but you have all the
fruit waste to put in your compost. I make enough for the day, but you
will see that if you leave it in the fridge, it does go a little gooey
slimey but still taste great... The best thing is that my BP was
168/111, after drinking beets for a couple of weeks, i started getting
very dizzy. Had my BP checked at doctors and he was amazed, 124/81.
NORMAL, but my body registered this as low BP. Now all stable and good
and almost off the medication. I will be having my next MRI for my
brain tumor in 3 months and will then compare with previous scans to see
if there is any major change... Fingers crossed.

Mark Foote said...

Reading "The Sorcerer's Guide to Good Health" by Peggy Cochrane, under Parkinson's:

Shamans in Russia advise their patients to eat beets with cooked beet tops two or three times weekly, and go on a special diet (the diet is beets (not pickled)and beet tops twice a week, cabbage, eggs, carrots, raw and green vegetables, beans, corn, salads, liver, chicken, advocados, seafood, mushrooms, nuts and bananas-- avoiding red meats, heavy meats, potatoes, yams, turnips, rutabaga, pork, popcorn, potato chips, fried foods, pastries, and sweets). Peggy cautions that the treatments in her book are offered for historical and cultural interest, and not for application to any individual case.

Came to your post googling Parkinson's, beets, and beet tops.