By Alice Wessendorf on 11/12/2010
You’re never going to guess what’s going at the top of my grocery list this week.
Beets! Well, beet juice to be more exact.
I must admit that beets are one vegetable that I don’t have a whole lot of experience with. Sure, I have had pickled beets from time to time, and perhaps they’ve shown up roasted in a dish or two that I’ve made.
But until recently I didn’t even know that there WAS such a thing as beet juice.
Well, it turns out that the juice from this unassuming root vegetable is a powerhouse when it comes to resolving circulation-related issues. And that means that the lowly beet could become your new best friend if you’re fighting high blood pressure or combating age-related dementia.
Earlier this year, a study published in the journal Hypertension concluded that beet juice is quite effective for lowering blood pressure. And what’s more, it does it quickly.
Researchers compared the effects of the juice to those of prescription nitrate tablets and found that the juice was just as effective at lowering blood pressure to healthy levels.
It turns out that it’s the organic nitrates found in beet juice that are the key to its effectiveness. The naturally occurring nitrates increase the levels of nitric oxide (NO) in the blood.
The job of NO in the body is to prompt muscle tissues to relax, allowing blood vessels to dilate. (Guys, this is the same stuff that allows you to have strong healthy erections.) With this increased blood flow, your blood pressure naturally lowers.
According to a new study published online last week in the journal Nitric Oxide: Biology and Chemistry, it’s this same increase in blood flow that means beet juice may be an effective deterrent to the slowdown we see in our brain functions as we age.
According to scientists, circulation to certain areas of our brain starts to decline as we get older, showing up as poor cognition and sometimes even leading to full-blown dementia.
Researchers at the Center for Translation Science, already aware of the ability of beet juice to decrease blood pressure by increasing blood flow, wanted to see if the juice would be effective at increasing blood flow to the brain of elderly adults in particular.
Fourteen adult volunteers age 70 and older were fed either a nitrate-rich diet including 16 ounces of beet juice with breakfast or a low-nitrate diet. Blow flow to the volunteers’ brains was then monitored by MRI daily, and blood tests were administered both before and after breakfast to confirm nitrite levels in their bodies.
The MRIs showed that after eating the high-nitrate meal the volunteers had indeed increased the blood flow to the area of the brain that is most often associated with cognition problems. Demonstrating that beet juice could help fight off the effects of age related cognitive decline and dementia.
If you have a juicer you can make your own beet juice at home. Since raw unsweetened beet juice tends to be a little bitter you might want to mix it with another healthy juice, like carrot for example.
Biotta makes an organic beet juice that can be found online and in a number of retail stores. You can check the website for a location near you. If your local health-food or natural-food store doesn’t carry Biotta, or another beet-juice brand, ask them to start.
Is that sound I’m hearing you adding beet juice to your shopping list?