This Underrated Root Veggie Has Serious Heart Health Benefits
We like to think the underdog always comes out on top, but when it comes to "superfoods," it seems the popular green guys get all the glory. But it's not all kale and avocado all the time. If you're looking out for your heart, cardiologist and New York Times bestselling author Alejandro Junger, M.D., says you better be eating more beets.
The beneficial, yet underrated, root vegetable is "an incredible source of nitrate-containing nutrients," Junger tells mbg. Nitrate-containing nutrients are essential precursors of nitric oxide, which helps to relax the arterial walls and regulate the blood-clotting cascade, he explains.
So, what does all of that mean in nonmedical jargon?
Heart-health benefits of beets.
Nitric oxide is a naturally occurring molecule produced in the body. It helps signal beneficial responses in the cardiovascular system, Junger says. That includes vasodilation, which relaxes the blood vessels (aka arteries) and helps both oxygen and blood circulate throughout the body efficiently.
Nitric oxide has also been shown to decrease the rate of blood clot formation and reduce blood clot strength, making nitrite-rich foods, like beets, a potential intervention against blood clots. So, all in all, beets are really great for the cardiovascular system.
How to add beets to your diet.
You can start your morning with beet pancakes, a hydrating beet juice, or a smoothie made with beetroot powder. If you're not partial to raw beets in a salad, try topping your greens with a pink goddess dressing instead, or cooking them into your pasta sauce for lunch and/or dinner.
If you weren't shopping for beets as frequently as leafy greens, it's time to rethink that grocery list. This underrated root vegetable has serious heart benefits, from lowering blood pressure to decreasing your risk of blood clots—all thanks to its nitrate-containing nutrients.
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.