For the month of February we will be highlighting one of my favourite vegetables to grow, eat, and recommend: beets!
I come from a Lithuanian background, so I have been eating beets practically since birth. We eat them boiled, steamed, grated into soup (hot and cold), pickled - you name it, we've got a way to prepare beets.
It wasn't until years later when I became a Naturopathic Doctor that I learned how magical beets truly are. Even though some may describe their flavour as "Earthy" or like a "damp basement”, there is no denying that these purple tubers swing a massive health punch. The foremost of these magical health benefits is improved blood flow and blood vessel health. But why do they have this magical effect?
It's All About Nitric Oxide
Nitric Oxide (NO) is a substance in our bodies that promotes relaxation of blood vessel walls, leading to widening of the vessels, greater blood flow, and reduced stress on the heart. The more nitric oxide in our bodies, the better.
Our bodies have more than one way to make Nitric Oxide
Of course our bodies naturally have a system for making NO, however, the starting point for each pathway is different. The main difference is: when our bodies make NO it requires oxygen, whereas, when inorganic nitrites are used oxygen is not needed. This means that in situations where oxygen is low (lung disease, anemia, heart disease, exercise, etc), inorganic nitrates could help by increasing delivery of blood to muscle and other tissues.
What does this have to do with beets?
While nitrates are found in all vegetables, it’s especially abundant in beets. Recent research suggests that adding nitrate-rich beets to your diet can not only decrease blood pressure but also reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise and enhance athletic performance.
So that’s why I tell my patients to eat their beets! They’re very good for you - and delicious. And that makes the naturopath - and Lithuanian- in me very happy!
Pay attention to next week's post as we will dive into some of the research, as well as provide helpful tips on how to eat your beets.
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Oake, ND