If you are looking for the #1 best vegetable to include in your healthy blood pressure diet, beets deserve the grand prize.
A whopping 116 million Americans have high blood pressure, which puts this huge proportion of people at an increased risk of experiencing some pretty scary health outcomes, like heart disease and stroke.
Needless to say, many people try to lower their blood pressure to help curb their risk of these potentially fatal effects. Some tried-and-true recommendations for managing blood pressure include limiting sodium intake, exercising, and following the DASH diet, or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet. Within this diet, created specifically to lower blood pressure, people are encouraged to eat many heart-healthy foods, including vegetables.
How vegetables play a role in blood pressure regulation
Vegetables are typically chock-full of healthy blood pressure-supporting nutrients (like fiber) and are naturally low in sodium. Certain varieties of veggies are also natural sources of calcium, magnesium, and potassium: three minerals that are emphasized in the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet, as consuming them in adequate amounts helps support healthy blood pressure.
Eating more vegetables—regardless of the type—is always a good idea, regardless of whether you are trying to support a healthy blood pressure or otherwise. But if you are looking for the #1 best vegetable to include in your healthy blood pressure diet, beets deserve the grand prize.
Beet Nutrition Facts
Beets are a relative to chard and spinach. But unlike chard and spinach, we consume both the beetroot and the beet greens. Each part of the beet plant has its own nutritional profile.
The beet greens are considered a non-starchy vegetable and contain very little carbohydrate, whereas the beet bulb is starchier and therefore higher in carbs (but also fiber). Each part of the vegetable contains some different vitamins and minerals.
One cup of raw red beetroot (136g) provides 58 calories, 2.2g of protein, 13g of carbohydrates, and 0.2g of fat. Beets are an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, and potassium. The following nutritional information is provided by the USDA.
One cup of raw beets contains about the same amount of calories and carbohydrate as one serving of fruit. The carbohydrates in beets come from both naturally occurring sugar (9.2 grams per 1 cup serving) and dietary fiber (just under 4 grams per serving). Fiber helps to regulate blood sugars, increases feelings of fullness, and can help lower blood cholesterol.
The estimated glycemic index of beets is 64, making it a high glycemic food. However, the glycemic load (which factors in serving size) is only 4; a GL under 4 is considered low.
There is almost no fat in a single serving of beets. The small amount of fat is polyunsaturated fat, which is considered a healthy fat. Keep in mind that preparation methods may add fat to beets. If you roast beets using olive oil, for example, you’ll consume more fat.
Beets are not a high protein food, but you will get a small boost of the important macronutrient when you consume a single serving of beets. Each cup provides just over 2 grams.
Vitamins and Minerals
Beets are a very good source of folate and manganese and a good source of potassium. Folate is important for DNA synthesis and preventing neural tube defects in pregnancy, while manganese is a component of antioxidant enzymes and helps break down glucose and proteins. Potassium may help to reduce blood pressure.
One cup of raw red beetroot (136g) provides 58 calories, 83% of which come from carbs, 13% from protein, and 4% from fat.
Beets are a good source of fiber and natural sugars. They are high in vitamin C, potassium, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Beets are the #1 vegetable for healthy blood pressure
Surprisingly sweet, beautifully colored, and incredibly versatile, the beloved veggie that is the shining star of salads paired with goat cheese, wraps, and even some fancy smoothies may not be top-of-mind when considering which food to eat when trying to keep your blood pressure healthy, but it should be. In fact, beets are one of the best foods you can possibly eat if you have high blood pressure.
Not only do beets check so many boxes when it comes to heart-healthy foods, including being naturally low in sodium, free from added sugars, and free from saturated fat, but they contain a slew of other important factors that satisfy guidelines when following the DASH diet, including being a source of the ever-important calcium, magnesium, and potassium minerals.
Beets also contain dietary nitrates: natural chemicals that are converted to nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, which is a chemical that relaxes the inner muscles of your blood vessels and promotes an increase in blood flow. In turn, vasodilators like nitric oxide can help reduce blood pressure.
In clinical trials, data shows that drinking beetroot juice that is made from real beets may help reduce blood pressure. A systematic review and meta-analysis published in Frontiers in Nutrition showed that drinking beetroot juice within a range of 3 to 60 days improved systolic blood pressure among study subjects.
And according to results of a randomized crossover trial published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, consuming nitrate-rich vegetables, like beets, offered a positive effect on blood pressure measurements among young adults.
Some health benefits of eating beets
Beets contain phytonutrients called betalains, which give them their reddish-purple hue and provide them with antioxidants. These compounds help to reduce inflammation in the body and fight cell damage.
A research analysis found that those who drank beet juice prior to exercise were able to exercise longer, showing increased cardiorespiratory endurance.
This is because of how the nitrates in beets turn into nitric acid, a process that may reduce the oxygen cost of low-intensity exercise as well as enhance tolerance to high-intensity exercise.
Reduces Blood Pressure
Beetroot juice has also been shown to help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. Again, it is the nitrates in beets that seem to be responsible for this beneficial effect.
Improves Cognitive Function
A study of older adults concluded that a diet high in nitrates may also help improve blood flow to the brain, which boosts cognitive health and functioning.
Another study of people with type 2 diabetes, published in 2014, showed an increase in reaction time (an indicator of cognitive performance) in people who consumed beet juice.