Professional athletes are always looking for ways to improve their performance, and one item that has been of interest in the past few years has revolved around (of all things), whether beet juice can make them faster or stronger.
There have been competent research studies showing that beets might be helpful for athletes, but today we focus on another beneficial aspect of eating beets: a significant blood pressure lowering effect in people with hypertension.
SInce approximately 25% of adult Brazilians are hypertensive (the rate rises to 50% for those above age 55), eating beets might be an interesting and simple way to help control pressure, particularly since many hypertensives do not have their blood pressure under ideal control.
Hypertension is said to be responsible for 300,000 deaths per year in Brazil, due to strokes and cardiovascular disease caused by the increased pressure and secondary damage to blood vessels.
Medical researchers from the Bart and The London Medical School studied 15 middle-aged men and women who had mild hypertension, but who were not taking any anti-hypertensive medication. They were given 250 ml. of beetroot juice and their blood pressure was checked frequently over the following 24 hours.
Amazingly, three hours after drinking the juice, their pressure had dropped nearly 12 mm Hg, and that reduction persisted another 3 hours. Then their pressure rose slightly, but for the full 24 hours their pressure still stayed lower than it would have been without drinking the juice (at 24 hours the reduction was still 8.5 mm Hg.).
Note that the researchers also performed what is called a “control” experiment also—they gave a similar drink of 250 ml. but without beetroot nitrate (the active ingredient in the juice)—and there was no blood pressure reduction.
Yes the “secret” substance in the juice is the “inorganic nitrate” that is found in soil, and concentrated especially in root vegetables such as beets, as well as in some others like radishes, and in dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and arugula.
Nitrate is the important component in beets responsible for the blood pressure lowering effect, but beets are also superstar vegetables for another reason: they are full of a unique group of antioxidants called betalains, which have have strong anit-inflammatory and detoxification properties. If you can buy beets with the greens attached, even better, since the greens are valuable sources of lutein and zeanxanthin, antioxidants that are especially important for maintain healthy eyes as we get older.
Some of these antioxidants are destroyed by heat, so it’s best to cook beets lightly, or even try them raw….you can mix beet greens in your salad for example. For the beetroot, try steaming them lightly for 15 minutes. Or, if you have a juicer, add the beets to carrots and an apple and you will have a potent and tasty health drink.
So if you have high blood pressure, particularly if it is not well controlled, you might talk to your doctor about this research. Although the London study was small, there have been previous studies showing a blood pressure lowering effect, so the effect is likely real and could be very beneficial.
The authors conclude that their research “supports the concept of dietary nitrate supplementation as an effective, but simple and inexpensive, antihypertensive strategy.” In another post, we will talk about beets and athletic performance, and explain how the same nitrogen process is why drugs like Viagra work to open your blood vessels…
Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)