Beets Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

beet nutrition facts and health benefits
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Beets are a root vegetable and a relative to chard and spinach. But unlike chard and spinach, we consume both the beetroot and the beet greens. Each part of the beet plant has its own nutritional profile. The beet greens are considered a non-starchy vegetable and contain very little carbohydrate, whereas the beet bulb is starchier and therefore higher in carbs (but also fiber). Each part of the vegetable contains some different vitamins and minerals.

Beet Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup (136g) of raw red beetroot.

  • Calories: 58
  • Fat: 0.2g
  • Sodium: 106mg
  • Carbohydrates: 13g
  • Fiber: 3.8g
  • Sugars: 9.2g
  • Protein: 2.2g

Carbs

One cup of raw beets contains about the same amount of calories and carbohydrate as one serving of fruit. If you are watching your carbohydrate intake, keep this in mind—depending on what your meal is composed of, you may want to keep your portion to one serving at a time. 

The carbohydrates in beets come from both naturally occurring sugar (9.2 grams per 1 cup serving) and dietary fiber (just under 4 grams). Fiber helps to regulate blood sugars, increases feelings of fullness, and can help lower blood cholesterol.

The estimated glycemic index of beets is 64, making it a high glycemic food. However, the glycemic load (which factors in serving size) is only 4; a GL under 4 is considered low.

Fats

There is almost no fat in a single serving of beets. The small amount of fat is polyunsaturated fat, which is considered a healthy fat. Keep in mind that preparation methods may add fat to beets. If you roast beets using olive oil, for example, you'll consume more fat.

Protein

Beets are not a high protein food, but you will get a small boost of the important macronutrient when you consume a single serving of beets. Each cup provides just over 2 grams.

Vitamins and Minerals

Beets are a very good source of folate and manganese and a good source of potassium and fiber. Folate is important for DNA synthesis and preventing neural tube defects in pregnancy, while manganese is a component of antioxidant enzymes and helps break down glucose and proteins. Potassium may help to reduce blood pressure and fiber is important in digestive health. 

Beetroot leaves (beet greens) are rich in vitamin B6, vitamin K, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, and antioxidants.

Health Benefits 

The beet's leaves offer the same nutritional value as other dark leafy greens, such as chard and spinach: They're very low in carbohydrates and packed with many useful vitamins and minerals. But beetroot also has a lot to offer.

Fight Inflammation

Beets contain phytonutrients called betalains, which give them their reddish-purple hue and provide them with antioxidants. These compounds help to reduce inflammation in the body and fight cell damage.

Improve Endurance

A research analysis found that those who drank beet juice prior to exercise were able to exercise longer, showing increased cardiorespiratory endurance. This is because of how the nitrates in beets turn into nitric acid, a process that may reduce the oxygen cost of low-intensity exercise as well as enhance tolerance to high-intensity exercise.

Reduce Blood Pressure

Beetroot juice has also been shown to help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. Again, it is the nitrates in beets that seem to be responsible for this beneficial effect.

Improve Cognitive Function

A study of older adults concluded that a diet high in nitrates may also help improve blood flow to the brain, which boosts cognitive health and functioning. Another study of people with type 2 diabetes, published in 2014, showed an increase in reaction time (an indicator of cognitive performance) in people who consumed beet juice.

Allergies

Beets are likely safe when consumed in amounts typically served in meals, as allergic reactions to beets are very rare.

Adverse Effects

The pigment in beets can leak into your bowels after eating them. If you are otherwise feeling healthy and notice a red tint in your urine or stool after consuming beets, you shouldn't worry. If you feel sick or the coloring does not change, contact your physician immediately, as changes in the color of stool can be an indicator of an internal issue.

Beets contain oxalic acid, which when combined with calcium and/or vitamin C can form oxalates. Excessive amounts of oxalates in the body can lead to urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and even kidney failure. If you have kidney disease or are on a low-oxalate diet for another reason, your doctor may recommend limiting your consumption of beets (especially their greens).

Varieties

Beetroots are usually red-to-deep-purple in color, but there are also other varieties, such as golden and white beets. Some people find the flavor of golden beets to be sweeter and less earthy than red beets. The antioxidants in variously colored beets differ slightly, but all beets have similar nutritional value.

When They're Best

Beets are available all year. Their peak season runs from March to October. Choose beets that are small to medium-sized and that feel firm, with smooth skin. Avoid beets with hairy root tips—these beets may be tough. Look at the greens when choosing your beets. Fresh beets will have perky, crisp greens.

When you cook beets, they will have a little more sodium than raw beets. They also have more sugar than raw beets (about 13.5g per cup for cooked vs. 9g per cup for raw). You can also buy jarred, canned, and pickled beets. Canned beets have a little less protein, fiber, and sugar than fresh, and more sodium.

Pickled beets are also popular and have different nutritional values. According to the USDA, pickled beets have about 110 calories, 0.1g fat, 252mg sodium, 27.5g carbs, 0.8g fiber, 11g sugars, and 0.8g protein per cup.

Storage and Food Safety

Store fresh greens and roots separately, cutting the greens an inch or two above where they attach to the root. Avoid washing fresh beets until you are ready to use them, and store in the refrigerator in an airtight plastic bag. The greens will keep for a few days and the roots for two to three weeks.

How to Prepare

Beets are a versatile food that can be made in a variety of ways. Shave or grate raw beets into salads or smoothies, or roast, sauté, steam, boil, or grill them to compliment your meal. Use the bulb and the greens to get the full nutritional benefits and flavor of the beet.

Recipes

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