beets

Doctors love scientific explanations for how things work. That is why they are quick to prescribe medications for a variety of conditions. FDA approval provides reassuring evidence of effectiveness.

Dietary supplements, foods, herbs and home remedies rarely have scientific support and usually lack an explanation for the way they work. That may be why it is hard for physicians to recommend such treatments.

How Do Beets Lower Blood Pressure?

There is, however, a growing body of scientific research demonstrating that beets lower blood pressure. Investigators even have a mechanism to explain how beetroot (Beta vulgaris) works to help control hypertension (Hypertension, online April 15, 2013).

Scientists knew that a natural compound called nitrite in the bloodstream helps blood vessels relax and lowers blood pressure. But how? And does this work in people with hypertension as well?

Rat Research Reveals the Mechanism:

To find out, they did research in rats that develop hypertension spontaneously. They identified an enzyme called xanthine oxidoreductase (XOR) in the red blood cells called erythrocytes. This enzyme converts nitrate to nitrite, which is then turned into nitric oxide. This is the compound that relaxes vessel walls and reduces blood pressure.

Figuring out how to control blood pressure in rats is interesting, but doesn’t have much practical application. So the investigators ran a test in Londoners with hypertension. Their systolic pressure was between 140 and 159, while their diastolic pressure was between 90 and 99. These 15 volunteers were given a cup (250 ml) of beet juice to drink as a dietary source of nitrate. In the placebo arm, the beverage was low-nitrate water.

One Cup of Beet Juice Lowered Blood Pressure in People:

The results were encouraging. Just one cup of beet juice lowered systolic pressure an average of 11 points between three and six hours later. Even after 24 hours, the blood pressure of participants who had consumed beet juice was still a bit lower than baseline. Diastolic blood pressure fell about 9 points, and was back to baseline at 24 hours.

This kind of reduction in blood pressure is as good as the results usually achieved with medication. Many drugs for hypertension only lower blood pressure 4 or 5 points on average.

One reader reported his experience with beets:

“I have high blood pressure and cannot take medication. So I decided to try beet root juice. A small amount every day brings my blood pressure down quickly and it stays that way for the whole day.

“I found it too expensive to buy continually so I went out and bought a juicer. Now I juice one beet a day in with other leafy green vegetables. I am telling you, the beet juice works!

“My blood pressure now when I check it is always on the low side. You won’t regret drinking beet juice, but you need to drink it EVERY day for it to continue to work.”

Beets, Greens and the DASH Diet:

Leafy green vegetables are also high in nitrate. That may explain why the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet has been proven so effective. We have more information about the DASH diet and other foods such as chocolate, grape juice and pomegranate for hypertension in our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment.

Recent Research Showing Beets Lower Blood Pressure:

This research established fairly conclusively that beetroot juice can lower blood pressure. Since 2013, several studies have answered a few questions. One meta-analysis found that younger people (under 65 years old) have a more robust blood pressure response to a daily cup of beet juice (Nitric Oxide, May 1, 2015). A British study tested beetroot juice in people with hypertension and found it lowered clinic, home and ambulatory blood pressure (Hypertension, Feb. 2015).

Another clinical trial compared raw beet juice to cooked beets (Journal of Human Hypertension, Oct. 2016). The investigators found that both a cup of raw beet juice and about 8 ounces (250 g) of cooked beets daily lowered blood pressure. The raw beet juice was more effective, however, at lowering several markers of inflammation as well as cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Finally, a study determined that beet juice was effective for lowering blood pressure in people whose hypertension was uncontrolled (Irish Journal of Medical Science, online Jan. 3, 2017). Two weeks of daily treatment with beetroot juice had little if any impact on people whose blood pressure was already well controlled.

With all of this research to support food as medicine, doctors may be more willing to recommend to their patients, “beets lower blood pressure.” Other dietary components that may be worth adding to the diet to keep blood pressure down include potassium, magnesium, L-arginine and cocoa flavonoids (British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, Jan. 2017).

Revised 1/19/2017

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  1. GOMER
    Buffalo, NY
    Reply

    I am eating a can of no salt beets and drinking it’s juice everyday. It’s cheap only 70 cents a can. I hope this lowers my high blood pressure. I don’t want to take meds…to many side effects.

  2. dennis
    van nuys ca
    Reply

    Where do you get “Beet Juice?”.

  3. Louise
    Texas
    Reply

    Beets are a high oxalte food and cause kidney stones in susceptible people. Only eat them in moderation.

  4. Laura Marie M.
    IN
    Reply

    I started a beet root supplement from Nature’s Way last fall, to see if it would lower my blood pressure. After a few days, I noticed I was not having the migraines that I have experienced for 21 years ~ so wonderful! But I became concerned about the sugar in the beets and the magnesium stearate in the supplement. I switched to L-Arginine with good results, except that it caused an unpleasant side effect. Then I found Mercola’s fermented beet root/red spinach supplement. I am a happy camper!

  5. J. David A
    Springfield, MO, USA
    Reply

    I get my nitrates/nitrites from cured meat – from safe pork I raise not feeding any frankenfats. Even if cured with celery, the resulting nitrates provide the “curing.” I like beets too.

    If you have radishes picked too late with a bitter problem, pickle them with some beets and they are perfect. The best horseradish sauce is one with beets mixed in – you need enough beets so the sauce is deeper red than peptobismol to get people to try it.

  6. Kris
    Georgia
    Reply

    I MAY have gall bladder problems. I am not sure since I do NOT have health insurance. I went to a local health food/vitamin store and bought beet juice. Thank Goodness I haven’t had to use it yet but heard it will help/work (?)
    If I get another “attack of whatever” I may try it. I also heard a funny / weird thing one day from the weather girl. She was saying how they were going to use organic beet juice along with the salt on the roads. Don’t know how that would work. I tuned in to the program late, so maybe she meant the salt on your property. It was interesting to hear espically since I had just bought it the beet juice.

    Anyone heard of this?

  7. Lisa
    Reply

    What about nitrates and nitrites? Aren’t we supposed to avoid these compounds in excess?

  8. alwin
    lancaster uk england
    Reply

    Can I take beetroot tablets with my highblood medication ace inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and diuretics? Plus I’m on simvastatin

    • Terry Graedon
      Reply

      If you decide to add beetroot tablets, powder or juice to your regimen, monitor your blood pressure closely. You don’t want it to go too low unexpectedly.

  9. Cherrie
    WC1N1AQ
    Reply

    Had my gallbladder out, heard that the beetroot supplement is good for keeping your liver healthy specially if you have fatty one, so got some, but when reading net, says it lowers blood pressure, but I already have low blood pressure naturally, so that mean if I take it, its going to drop to low and have me blackout all over the place?

  10. dale
    mint hill n c
    Reply

    enjoy it hope to learn more

  11. Allie
    Palm beach
    Reply

    Love the beet root. I take the capsules instead of the beet root juice. It is yucky to me. I get em at a vitamin shop for $10 bucks. Label says 2 caps 3 x a day. I take I cap 3 x a day. Have been off BP meds for years now. Awesome. Thanks, People’s Pharmacy!

  12. Peggy
    Washington
    Reply

    July this year been juicing beet juice since January. BP down. Was put on Celecoxib and 2 months later BP was 202/109. Hadbeetjuice with me so took it and lowered BP to 159/89 within 4 hours. Kept taking juice until got home made more juice and down to 147/76. I still take beet juice .

  13. Mary
    Reply

    Yesterday I was fortunate enough to participate in a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey, potatoes & gravy, dressing, carrots, cranberries & a roll. WOW.

    One of the veggies they had was beets. I used to hate them.

    These folks seasoned them enough so I found them pleasant. So give beets a try.

    • Alwin
      Lancaster uk
      Reply

      Do you still take your medication as well as beetroot

  14. Keely
    Durham, NC
    Reply

    While I think this data is great, and I love seeing it, I’m really disappointed at the number of patients who have shown up at my office having completely stopped their blood pressure medications in favor of occasionally eating beets.

    Please remember to discuss this with your doctor before suddenly stopping a med that is being given to help prevent a cardiovascular event.

    • Keely
      Durham, NC
      Reply

      Also, I would point out that the only human data has a study group of fewer than 20 people. As was shown in the faulty chocolate/weight loss study, this is hardly a large enough group to make sweeping recommendations regarding a sea change in the treatment for hypertension. I look forward to seeing broader study, but am doubtful that anyone will undertake such a rigorous study, unfortunately.

  15. Gus
    Reply

    I am hearing a great deal about Beets, powder , juice, etc. lowering BP. No one seems to have a Beta for someone who has hypertension & would love to get off these deadly RX pills. I am a little appprehensious about taking the Beet powder 3 grams with my RX benazapril/hczt-20/12.5.
    I have been taking supplements in ernest for over 35 years & I am very careful & understand you can mix the wrong thing with the wrong thingh.
    For instance people who are on RX BP meds should never be mixing Rhodiola, or Red siberian Ginseng, they can have a deadly result yet none of the “experts in the vitamin stores & I am talking about some pretty experienced people not the typical newbie at GNC who just came in from the car wash.
    So I just am very careful about what I mix. Beets appear to be very benign; but they could have a unique bad effect with a RX BP med.
    Gus

  16. Gus
    So. California
    Reply

    So if I take 3 grams of beet powder & benazapril/hctz 20/12.5 mg., will I have any problems?
    Is there anyone out there who might have an opinion?
    Thank you.

  17. tish
    kansas
    Reply

    BEETS, grow your own, don’t be so dependent on the store. Costs you almost nothing.

    • nancy
      Reply

      I would think there would be no contraindications between the meds and the Beet Root Powder. Think it as a food. Did they tell
      you not to eat beets while on these meds?

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