You Can’t Beat Beets as a Sports Nutrition Superfood
Posted Aug 23 2009 10:32pm
It’s probably no news to you that beets are nutritious, but did you know that they may be able to increase your exercise endurance? Interesting new research on beets as a superfood has shown that they are potentially capable of boosting physical performance. Apparently, beets and other nitrate-rich vegetables increase blood flow and lower blood pressure. In this particular study, beetroot juice significantly increased the exercise endurance performance of cyclists as measure by oxygen uptake. The group of cyclists given the beetroot juice consumed less oxygen when exercising and therefore conserved energy.
While scientists have previously studied beets for their ability to lower blood pressure, this new research found that the juice increases endurance and stamina in cyclists by converting the nitrates in the juice to beneficial nitric oxide that fuel the body. In addition to presenting lower blood pressure after drinking the juice, the cyclists also performed significantly better than another group of cyclists given a black currant juice “cocktail”.
Says study author Professor Andy Jones of the University of Exeter’s School of Sport and Health Sciences, “Our study is the first to show that nitrate-rich food can increase exercise endurance. I am sure professional and amateur athletes will be interested in the results of this research”. But he adds, “Beet juice could (also) potentially help less physically fit individuals.”
Don’t confuse the natural nitrate compounds in beets with the chemical nitrites (i.e., sodium nitrite and potassium nitrite) used as food preservatives in such as bacon and hot dogs. While they are believed to be safe in small doses,there is some question of whether or not they can lead to cancer if consumed in large quantities.
Beets aren’t the only source of naturally-occurring nitrates. Other nitrate-rich vegetables include: celery, radishes, green beans, carrots, lettuce, squash and spinach. And, by the way, beets contain other heart-healthy nutrients. Beets contain betaine, which helps detoxify homocysteine (an amino acid that’s implicated in heart disease). If the body doesn’t have enough vitamin B-9 (folate) or B-12 to get rid of excess homocysteine, then betaine comes to the rescue as a backup mechanism. Beets are also a great source of Vitamins A and C, as well as manganese, potassium and fiber.
Fresh or canned, juiced, cooked or raw, beat it to your beets and you may not only keep your heart beating efficiently, you may also beat your competition!