With concerns about contaminated antihypertensive medications, many people are interested in ways to lower their blood pressure without drugs. There is a wide range of options: exercise, weight loss, slow breathing, the relaxation response. Some people look for a beverage that might hold the key. One possibility is hibiscus tea. Another is beet juice. Have you tried eating beets for better blood pressure?
Exercise to Lower Blood Pressure:
Q. I began exercising vigorously to lower high blood pressure. I read a university study showing beet juice increased athletic performance up to 15 percent over the previous best performance in elite athletes. The maximum benefit was 2.5 hours after drinking the juice.
I’m an old lady rather than an elite athlete, but I began following the study protocol. My trainer was stunned at my increased ability and endurance, as was I. Soon I lost 25 lbs. without dieting, was able to achieve dead lifts at 100 lbs. and barbell squats with 65 lbs.
Beets Help Blood Pressure and Fitness:
Also, I read that beet juice lowers blood pressure, and it lowered mine much more than medication. The nitrate in the juice gradually relaxes blood vessels; muscles get more oxygen, increasing strength and endurance.
I chop raw beets, blend them with water and slowly drink a cup about two hours before I head to the gym. A low dose of medication is still part of my regimen, but not on gym days.
A. We are impressed with your exercise program. You are probably aware that resistance training like weightlifting can reduce arterial stiffness (Journal of Clinical Medicine, Aug. 7, 2021). That, in turn, helps with blood pressure control.
A recent review of seven randomized controlled trials shows that beet root juice rich in nitrate lowers systolic hypertension (Frontiers in Nutrition, March 15, 2022). That’s the first, or higher, number in a blood pressure reading. The diastolic pressure did not change when volunteers consumed beet juice.
There’s more information about beet juice and other non-drug approaches to hypertension in our eGuide to Blood Pressure Solutions. For people who do not like the taste of beet juice, we offer a recipe for beet juice lemonade in this online resource.
Can You Use Beets for Better Blood Pressure?
Q. I have read that beets lower blood pressure, but there is controversy about whether only raw ungrated (i. e. not oxidized) beets lower blood pressure or also grated and cooked beets do. Can you clarify this question?
A. Most of the research involves beetroot juice. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials concluded that the juice lowers blood pressure (Advances in Nutrition, Nov. 15, 2017).
We have not seen research comparing grated beets to beetroot juice. A study comparing beet juice to cooked beets found that both lowered blood pressure, but raw beet juice reduced several additional markers of inflammation such as hs-CRP more than cooked beets (Journal of Human Hypertension, Oct. 2016). In addition, beet juice was better at lowering cholesterol levels. But if blood pressure is your primary interest, cooked beets or even beet powder might work well enough.
One reader offered this testimonial:
“I recently had my blood pressure increase (140 over 90). Now I take beet powder, adding it to food or water. It has a pleasant taste, not very beety. My blood pressure now is in the normal range.”
A New Beet Recipe:
One reader offers a beet recipe that they find more palatable than cooked beets or beet juice. Another advantage? It’s very easy.
Q. I know beets are a healthy food, but I just couldn’t stand their overpowering taste. I tried them roasted and in soups, and their flavor just overwhelmed everything.
However, I came up with a simple recipe that I enjoy. I simply grate or julienne them, and then pour balsamic vinegar on them raw. The resulting beet slaw is just delicious. The strong taste of the vinegar balances the strong taste of beets.
Sometimes I add other grated root vegetables like carrots, turnips, parsnips or even purple cabbage. When I add the other vegetables, I call it rainbow slaw rather than beet salad. I hope this will help others enjoy beets the way I now do.
Beet Slaw as a New Twist:
A. Thank you for a tasty-sounding recipe. This could make it easy for people to consume beets on a regular basis. We’ve not seen research comparing beet juice to fresh beet slaw, but we imagine your slaw might help lower blood pressure. A recent review suggests that consuming beet root provides multiple health benefits (Food Science & Nutrition, Sep. 9, 2021).
To learn more about beets and other foods that can help with blood pressure control, you may wish to read our eGuide to Blood Pressure Solutions. In addition to special foods and beverages for blood pressure, we discuss non-drug approaches and medications.
Beyond Beets for Better Blood Pressure:
Beet juice is not the only vegetable juice that can increase nitric oxide levels in the blood vessels and help them relax. (This is probably a big part of the way beets lower blood pressure.) One study found that beverages made with spinach or rocket salad (arugula) could also bring blood pressure down (Journal of Nutrition, May 2016). Other scientists found that chard gel brought systolic blood pressure down about as much as beet juice (Nitric Oxide, April 1, 2017).
For those interested in the exact mechanism, this article in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology (Jan. 2017) may be of interest.