You can’t beat beets
After years of being relegated to the recesses of the salad bar buffet
next to the shredded cheese and buttered croutons, beets are enjoying
their much-deserved place at the center stage of a healthy diet.
They’re not only chock-full of essential everyday nutrients like
B vitamins, iron, manganese, copper, magnesium, and potassium,
these ruby gems also are a goldmine of health-boosting nutrients
that you may not get anywhere else. Here are some great
—and surprising—things that happen to your body when you eat beets.
are rich in nitrates, which the body converts to nitric oxide—
a compound that relaxes and dilates blood vessels, turning them into
superhighways for your nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood.
That means better circulation, and possibly lower blood pressure.
A very small study from 2012 found that 13 men who drank
just one glass of beet juice temporarily lowered their systolic blood
pressure by an average of 4 to 5 points. (Note: the study was funded
by a beet juice manufacturer.) Another study published in
Hypertension in 2008 (which didn’t receive funding from beet-juice
makers) found that folks who drank the red root juice had a 10 mm Hg
drop in blood pressure and less blood clotting three hours later,
compared to those who drank water.
Your heart disease risk may drop
don’t just have an potentially positive impact on your blood pressure.
They are also rich in a plant alkaloid called betaine, as well as
the B-vitamin folate, which together deliver a one-two punch for lowering
blood levels of homocysteine, which in high levels increases your risk
for artery damage and heart disease.
You may improve your stamina
When elite athletes pee in a cup for a drug test, the color
might be crimson. Why? Because lots of athletes eat beets—
they know research has suggested that nitrates boost endurance
performance—and beets contain pigments that turn urine pink.
In one study, cyclists who drank beet juice could pedal hard 15%
longer in a time trial to exhaustion. It takes about three to five beets
(depending on their size, which varies widely) to get a performance
boost, says study author Andy Jones, PhD, dean of research in
the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter.
“Peak nitrate levels occur two to three hours after you eat or
drink them,” he says. So time your intake accordingly if your want
to crush your 5K PR.
Your brain may work better
Nitric oxide relaxes and dilates your blood vessels,
which in turn increases blood flow to the brain—
which could bring on better brain function. That’s particularly
important as we age, as research finds that our capacity to
generate nitric oxide diminishes as we get older, along with
our brain’s energy metabolism and neuron activity.
So give your brain a boost with beets. In one small 2010 study,
14 older men and women (average age of 74) who ate a
high-nitrate diet, including beet juice, for two days enjoyed
more blood flow to the frontal lobe of their brains—a region
known to be involved with executive functioning skills like focus,
organization, and attention to detail—than when they ate
a low-nitrate diet.
Your liver will be lighter
Your liver does the heavy work of cleaning your blood and
“detoxing” your body. You can lighten its load with a daily
serving of beets. Research shows that betaine, an amino acid
found in beets (as well as spinach and quinoa) can help prevent
and reduce the accumulation of fat in the liver. Animal studies
show that rats given beet juice have higher levels of detoxifying
enzymes in their bloodstream. Research on people with diabetes
shows that betaine improves liver function, slightly decreases
cholesterol, and reduces liver size.
You may be better at fighting chronic diseases
Beets are also rich in betalains, a class of potent antioxidants and
anti-inflammatories that battle free radical- and inflammation-related
chronic diseases like heart disease, obesity, and possibly cancer.
Speaking of cancer, research suggests that betacyanin,
the pigment that gives beets its pretty purple hue may help
protect against common carcinogens; it has also shown
promise against laboratory-grown breast cancer cells and
is currently being investigated as a cancer-fighter.
you become regular
“One way to beat irregularity and constipation is by eating
fiber-rich foods like beets,” says Leslie Bonci, RD,
sports nutritionist at Pittsburgh-based company Active Eating Advice.
One cup of beets delivers about 4 grams of dietary fiber,
particularly insoluble fiber, which helps reduce the risk of
constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticulitis. The betaine found in
beets has also been shown to improve digestion. Just take note,
your pee isn’t the only thing beets turn pink. Don’t be alarmed
if you see crimson-colored stools 24 to 72 hours following a meal
heavy in beets.
Balance your GABA levels to reduce your risk for many physical and mental health disorders
There are so many things in life that can make people stressed.
Fortunately, the body has its own way of coping with the pressure of everyday life.
Gamma-AminoButyric Acid (GABA) is an amino acid that also functions as a
neurotransmitter, and one of the most important ones at that.
It is derived from glutamate, a neurotransmitter produced from glucose
metabolism in the brain. These neurotransmitters are used by the brain cells
communicate with each other. The specific role of GABA is to slow down brain activity
by preventing nerve impulses from firing. This induces feelings of relaxation and
calmness that people who are under a lot of stress yearn for. Moreover, GABA is also
involved in other brain functions, such as vision, sleep, cognition, and motor control.
The role of GABA in maintaining brain health is tightly linked with glutamate activity.
These neurotransmitters work in completely opposite ways. GABA is inhibitory,
whereas glutamate triggers the firing of nerve impulses, thereby accelerating brain
activity. You can think of them as the gas and brake pedals of the car, which are used to
regulate speed. It is important to maintain the balance between these neurotransmitters
to prevent drastic effects on mental health.
There is a higher chance that a person suffers from GABA deficiency since more than
86 percent of the general population have low neurotransmitter levels.
People who do not have sufficient levels of this neurotransmitter are at a higher risk
for anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, insomnia, meningitis, migraines, colorectal cancer,
inflammatory bowel syndrome, and Crohn’s disease.
There is actually no reliable way of measuring GABA. However, there are different
symptoms that indicate deficiency. These include the following:
- Unexplained feelings of dread
- Preoccupation with negative thoughts (especially at night)
- Increased intake of carbohydrate-rich foods
- Reliance on drugs or alcohol
Most cases of GABA deficiency can be blamed on a person’s lifestyle. According to Dr. Datis
Kharrazian, a researcher at Harvard Medical School, the main reasons for GABA
dysfunction are excessive amounts of stress and caffeine, lack of sleep, and gluten
intolerance. Gut bacteria also play a role in producing GABA so when there are more
bad bacteria than the good, they produce less of the neurotransmitter. Moreover,
vitamin B6 deficiency and autoimmune disorders that react to glutamic acid
decarboxylase (GAD) also inhibit the conversion of GABA from glutamate.
Increasing GABA levelsSince most people are likely to suffer from GABA deficiency,
it is important to know how this can be increased. The most common ways to do
so are by taking supplements or eating GABA-rich foods. It is common to find GABA
supplements on the market. However, most of these contain synthetic forms of the
neurotransmitter that are not sure to work. This is because of the presence of
the blood-brain barrier, which keeps foreign substances away from the brain.
Moreover, GABA supplements can also cause side effects like headaches,
sleepiness, and muscle weakness. Natural products are therefore a more effective
means of increasing GABA levels. Some foods that are rich in this brain chemical
include the following:
- Brown rice
- Probiotic foods (such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut)
- Sprouted grains
Any type of exercise can also be done to increase GABA levels. However,
improvements are especially good for people who do yoga. Previous studies
have shown that a one-hour yoga session can increase GABA levels by up to
27 percent. For those who do not like physical exercises, they can also
meditation a try since this also improves the production of GABA, to a degree
similar to yoga.
GABA is a very important neurotransmitter that maintains not just mental health
but also physical health so it is important to take steps to make sure that you
have enough of it.