Beetroot, otherwise known as Beta vulgaris, is a dark red vegetable with a multitude of associated health benefits. This article discusses the nutritional profile of this vegetable, why you might benefit from increasing the amount of beetroot in your diet, and how men, in particular, may benefit from the effects of beetroot.
Nutritional profile of beetroot
Red beetroot is a dark red vegetable with high water content and is rich in various phytochemicals and bioactive compounds. Generally speaking, beetroots do not have any observable effect on blood sugar levels, as only around 10% of their content consists of carbohydrates. They are high in fibre content, which is important to incorporate in a healthy diet to prevent the manifestation of chronic digestive problems. The main vitamins present in regular beetroot, all of which are equally important for many biochemical processes within our bodies, are:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A.
In addition to all these vitamins, other chemicals have been shown to be important for maintaining a healthy state, such compounds include betanin and inorganic nitrate.
Why are beetroots so healthy?
Vegetables are a vital part of a healthy and balanced diet; the functional nutrients they preserve offer many benefits for maintaining and improving the general well-being of the human population. An interesting fact is that beetroot is considered one of the top vegetable plants with the highest antioxidant concentration and activity.1
With recent developments in nutritional medicine, research shows lots of clinical potential of the red betanin pigment, natural nitrates, and its precursors, all of which are present within beetroot. The antioxidant betanin can reduce cellular oxidative stress, which reduces the susceptibility to cellular and DNA damage. 2 Whereas nitrate and nitrites are nitric oxide precursors that are proven to significantly improve endothelial function, induce muscle relaxation and effectively lower human blood pressure. The synthesis of nitric oxide is an essential targeted pathway when treating many chronic diseases. So, quantified supplemental concentrations of these biochemicals can be regulated within medications to enhance a treatment plan for specific diseases.3
Currently, the bioactive nutrients have demonstrated effective treatment of the following chronic conditions:
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Cerebrovascular diseases
- Chronic respiratory diseases.
Health benefits of beetroot for men
Improve athletic performance
These days many athletes and other individuals utilise beetroot supplementation to boost endurance and maintain sufficient energy when exercising. It is well understood that consumed dietary nitrate breaks down into nitrite so that it can be converted into nitric oxide.2 So regular consumption of fresh beetroot, its juice or supplements can potentially increase the amount of nitric oxide in the bloodstream, which can than improve endothelial lung function, strengthen muscle contraction, and ultimately improve athletic performance.
Nitric oxide works by stimulating the effective oxygen utilisation within muscle cells; this occurs by vasodilation to allow more oxygenated blood to reach targeted tissues. It also ensures that skeletal myocyte function is regulated by shifting energy supplies within skeletal tissue and modulating associated hormones, which prevent early fatigue and ensure better performance.
Reduce high blood pressure
As mentioned previously, nitric oxide gas acts as an active vasodilator making it one of the most important chemicals for regulating the health of blood vessels. The action of vasodilation involves relaxing the inner walls of blood vessels and increasing the size of the lumen, which directly allows more blood flow. Since there is less resistance within the vessels and the cardiac muscle does not have to pump as hard, it can relax which overall reduces the blood pressure of the individual.
Lower the risk of prostate cancer
It is acknowledged that very high levels of nitric oxide can have a protective mechanism against some cancer tumours. Developing research in prostate cancer has indicated that nitric oxide influences tumour progression. High levels of nitric oxide have been shown to lessen the hypoxic state caused within the tumour microenvironment as well as inhibit signalling cascades between the androgen receptor and other molecules, reducing the induction of tumour proliferation. It is suggested that hormonal stimulation and inflammatory processes that develop into prostatic neoplasia have high levels of nitrogen oxide.4 Additionally, some data suggest that other bioactive compounds found in beetroot like flavonoids have been associated with beneficial observations concerning prostate cancer. However, like other diseases, prostate cancer is very complex and more research is needed to fully understand the biochemical mechanisms involved.
Improve digestive health
People must consume fibre-rich food to maintain a healthy digestive system. Beetroot is extremely rich in fibre, allowing smoother digestive habits and preventing constipation. Also, high amounts of glutamine are concentrated within the beetroot. Glutamine is an essential amino acid for regulating the gut's healthy state. Collectively, these nutritious compounds also promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria, providing immune protection to prevent gastrointestinal-associated infections.
Help fight inflammation
The betanin pigment is thought to have antioxidant and antiradical actions within cells. It can alter redox biochemical reactions involved in inflammation, reducing the proinflammatory effects exhibited within infections or chronic diseases. This usually occurs via the interaction with the intercellular cell adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1).3 In addition, gallic acid is a very abundant type of polyphenol micronutrient present in beetroot. It is believed to aid in regulating glucose metabolism and improve cellular stress generated by inflammation.
Support brain health
The brain's neurological function slowly declines with age, making older people more susceptible to neurodegenerative diseases. Nitrates, active compounds found in beetroot, improve the directed blood flow to the brain and maintain the oxygen supply to neurons.
Strengthen bone health
The mineral manganese is found all over the body, especially in bones. Beetroot naturally preserves this mineral, and high amounts of manganese can reduce the risk of acquiring bone-related diseases like osteoporosis by slowing down the damage caused by loss of bone density with age.
Maintain liver health
The immersed antioxidants from beetroot consumption detoxify the body and protect the liver from inflammatory damage.5 Ascorbic acid, also known as vitamin C, is a potent antioxidant that induces free radical production protecting biomolecules from oxidative cellular damage within the liver. The removal of excessive reactive oxygen species and glucose regulation controlled by betanin stops the development of hyperglycaemia6 and reduces the risk of diabetes.3
Can beetroot help treat erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction7 occurs due to biological and environmental causes affecting blood flow or the male libido. One cause of the disorder is damage caused by high blood pressure, reducing the flow of blood to the penis. Nitric oxide, which is abundant in beetroot, operates as a vasodilator which increases regular blood flow to maintain a penile erection. Therefore, by consuming beetroot there is a higher chance of having more nitric oxide within the bloodstream, which potentially can improve dysfunction episodes. Although this hypothesis is not yet proven, nonetheless incorporating beetroot into an individual’s lifestyle is a step towards a healthier lifestyle, which could improve various aspects of the body, maybe even erectile dysfunction.5
How to include beetroot in your diet?
Many people who use beetroot supplements use biologically safe powders created via a freeze-drying procedure. Currently there are many different beetroot-infused food products that contain the nutritional benefits of organic beetroots, such as beet chips and beetroot gels. Still, beetroot is such an accessible vegetable that anyone can make beet juice or have it introduced to daily meals, as they tend to pair well with other fruits and vegetables.
Most of the population, unless one is allergic to beetroot, can regularly consume beetroot without any adverse or extreme side effects. Due to beetroot being extremely pigmented, sometimes the urine of the individual can appear a red colour, this is non-dangerous and very normal. However, if a person has a medical history of kidney stones, their physician may ask them to limit their beetroot consumption, as beetroot is high in oxalates which is what the calcium stones contain.5
According to current clinical trials, bioactive compounds within beetroot, such as nitrate and phytochemicals, have a potential to contribute to various treatments due to their antioxidant, antitumour, anti-inflammatory and other health-promoting aspects. However, it is yet to be proven that beetroot consumption and better health are more than just a correlation, as the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. Still, it is a rich nutritious vegetable that should not be underestimated.
- Mirmiran P, Houshialsadat Z, Gaeini Z, Bahadoran Z, Azizi F. Functional properties of beetroot (Beta vulgaris) in management of cardio-metabolic diseases. Nutr Metab (Lond) [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2022 Oct 16]; 17(1):3. Available from: https://nutritionandmetabolism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12986-019-0421-0.
- S. Baião D dos, Silva DVT da, Paschoalin VMF. Beetroot, A Remarkable Vegetable: Its Nitrate and Phytochemical Contents Can be Adjusted in Novel Formulations to Benefit Health and Support Cardiovascular Disease Therapies. Antioxidants (Basel) [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2022 Oct 16]; 9(10):960. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7600128/.
- Chen L, Zhu Y, Hu Z, Wu S, Jin C. Beetroot as a functional food with huge health benefits: Antioxidant, antitumor, physical function, and chronic metabolomics activity. Food Sci Nutr [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2022 Oct 16]; 9(11):6406–20. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fsn3.2577.
- Soni Y, Softness K, Arora H, Ramasamy R. The Yin Yang Role of Nitric Oxide in Prostate Cancer. Am J Mens Health [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2022 Oct 16]; 14(1):1557988320903191. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7008561/.
- Beet Juice for Erectile Dysfunction (ED): Does It Work? Healthline [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2022 Oct 16]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/erectile-dysfunction/beet-juice-for-ed.
- High blood sugar (hyperglycaemia). nhs.uk [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2022 Oct 16]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-blood-sugar-hyperglycaemia/.
- Erectile dysfunction (impotence). nhs.uk [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2022 Oct 16]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/erection-problems-erectile-dysfunction/.