Beet juice has been shown to lower blood pressure. Scientists believe that the high nitrate content of beets leads to creation of nitric oxide in the body. This compound helps relax blood vessels and improves circulation.
A new study from Wake Forest University suggests that beet juice may also be good for the brain. More than a dozen older adults followed prescribed diets including 16 ounces of beet juice a day. Some of the diets were high in vegetable-derived nitrates, from spinach and leafy greens, while others were low. MRI pictures showed improved blood flow to the brain when the diet was full of leafy greens and beets.
Although this research is preliminary, the investigators are excited about the possibility that increased blood flow to important parts of the brain might reduce the risk of dementia and help with recovery from strokes. Getting people to drink beet juice might be a challenge, however, as it is an acquired taste.
[Nitric Oxide: Biology and Chemistry, online Dec. 2010]