The People's Perspective on Medicine

Incredible Beet Health Benefits for Brain and Blood Pressure

Beets are not sexy, though they may improve your love life. Beet health benefits may also include lower blood pressure and brain protection.

Red beets are known officially as Beta vulgaris rubra. Researchers generally refer to this vegetable as beetroot. Although this root vegetable is popular in Europe, it doesn’t have a lot of fans in the U.S. It is less popular than okra, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, kale and escarole. But beetroots should be celebrated as superfood. That’s because there is substantial scientific evidence that beet health benefits include lower blood pressure. This red veggie may also be helpful for type 2 diabetes, dementia, cancer and atherosclerosis (Nutrients, April 2015). New data suggest that a key ingredient in beetroots, betanin, might help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (Meeting of the American Chemical Society, New Orleans, March 20, 2018 in Science News, March 20, 2018).

How Does Beetroot Help Against Alzheimer’s Disease?

One of the most intriguing beet health benefits could be brain protection. There are three potential mechanisms:

1) Lower Blood Pressure: Beetroot juice has been repeatedly shown to lower blood pressure as well, or better than, many medications. Controlling hypertension is essential for reducing the risk of dementia. A recent high-powered clinical study demonstrated that nitrate-rich beetroot juice lowered systolic blood pressure by 8 points (British Journal of Nutrition, March 2018). That’s impressive. Many drugs don’t work that well.

2) Improve blood flow to the brain: Reducing blood pressure too much in older people may actually lower blood flow (perfusion) to brain tissue. That’s bad news. People who develop dizziness upon standing (orthostatic hypotension) are at greater risk for developing dementia (European Journal of Epidemiology, April 2017). Beetroot juice both lowers blood pressure and improves brain blood perfusion (Nitric Oxide, Jan. 1, 2011). The authors note:

“These results suggest that dietary nitrate [found in beet juice] may be useful in improving regional brain perfusion in older adults in critical brain areas known to be involved in executive functioning.”

3) Prevent beta-amyloid plaque buildup in brain: When dysfunctional peptides form in the brain, neuronal activity is disrupted. Eventually, memory fails. Researchers have just reported that the red compound betanin might prevent damage to neurons.

How Does Betanin Protect the Brain?

Alzheimer’s disease is associated with a build-up of beta-amyloid peptides in the brain. The real trouble begins when they connect to a metal like copper, aluminum or iron, which causes them to fold improperly. This leads to pathological plaque and inflammation within the brain.

Based on laboratory studies, betanin appears to reduce oxidation associated with the beta amyloid-copper combination. This could diminish the misfolding of beta amyloid peptides and might eventually reduce plaque buildup within the brain.

You can learn more about how beet juice boosts brainpower in this article:

Beet Health Benefits and Older People:

A review of the medical literature by New Zealand researchers revealed some fascinating results (Nutrients, Nov. 2017).

The investigators analyzed data from 12 randomized, crossover, control trials. They wanted to know whether supplementation with beetroot juice could improve physical and cognitive performance in older people. They found that beet health benefits included prolonged time to exhaustion during cycling. The juice also:

“improved walking duration prior to onset of pain by 18% and maximal walking time by 17% in older adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).”

Two days of beetroot juice improved blood flow to the brain (Nitric Oxide, Jan. 1, 2011). Two weeks of beetroot juice:

“resulted in improvement in simple reaction time, compared to a placebo.”

That study involved older adults with type 2 diabetes (Nitric Oxide, Aug. 31, 2014). Short-term supplementation with beetroot juice did not improve cognitive performance. It would be interesting to see whether longer-term treatment might make a difference in brain function.

Stories from Readers:

We’ll bet you are tired of reading all this scientific gobbledygook. Here are some reports from our readers.

Jeff in Virgina found capsules to his liking:

“My wife and I take a few capsules of beet root powder daily, available at a fairly modest price. While we have not devised rigorous experimental or statistical methodology, we have seen significantly lowered blood pressure—we measure our blood pressure several times per day at home using a top-rated arm cuff device.”

Tony in Thailand reports:

“Beet juice with 2 tsp apple cider vinegar has brought my blood pressure down.”

Donna in Ohio adds:

“I have had severe side effects from BP meds. I think that I tried over 6 different types. And the worst part? My BP never got consistently lower. Sometimes it spiked to 190/150.

“I started mixing about 2-3 ounces 100% beet juice with my morning orange juice, and my BP was much more in the normal range (about one week after starting the beet juice).

“I did not care for the taste of beet juice, and it was not convenient while traveling. So I decided to try this: Beet Root Capsules 605 mg, pure all-natural extract pills. I take 2 in the morning and I am now in the normal range for my BP. Praise the Lord!”

Kristi in Chapel Hill, NC, got a surprising surge from beets:

“I’m thinking beets work for we women as well for adding some zip (or unzip!) back in our lives. I went to a lunch spot yesterday and enjoyed a delicious salad called ‘Bibb, Blue, and Beets’ which featured a significant amount of freshly roasted red beets.

“A couple hours later, a I felt a distinct ‘call for action.’ And today, my sex drive is zipping along beautifully. It has been a good number of years since I felt this way (late 50’s). I was so surprised I’ve been looking up articles today and ran across this web page. More beets, please!”

The article Kristi was referring to is this one:

People’s Pharmacy Update Perspective on Beet Health Benefits:

Many health professionals have a hard time swallowing the idea that beets or beetroot juice can lower blood pressure as well as some FDA-approved medications. They may not have looked at the data.

There are a surprising number of controlled, clinical trials involving beetroot juice. Most have detected a blood pressure-lowering effect. Compounds in beets make blood vessels more flexible and lead to vasodilation. That has been the proposed mechanism to lower blood pressure.

Another study adds an interesting twist to our knowledge (American Journal of Physiology. Heart and Circulatory Physiology, July 1, 2017). Researchers discovered that beetroot juice also affects the nervous system. When we get nervous or excited, adrenaline starts to flow more aggressively throughout the body. Neuroscientists call this increased sympathetic nerve activity. Beetroot juice decreases this overactive sympathetic outflow.

Whether beet health benefits will include brain protection remains to be seen. The pharmaceutical industry has little incentive to test a food that cannot be patented.

Every health professional we talk to encourages our readers and the listeners of our nationally syndicated ratio show to eat more vegetables. Why not make one of those vegetables beets? Who knows, it just might lower your blood pressure and protect your brain.

Do you eat beets? Have a favorite recipe? Please share it in the comment section below. Let us know what you think about beet health benefits.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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My wife and I eat beets . . . a LOT!
BUT in a recent newsletter, they’re not all they’re cracked up to be.
Gonna eat ’em ennyhow!

I love beets! And the recent news about benefits is nothing but good.

Only problem(s) re beets: (1) They’re darn expensive! Just a little bunch of beets (and you should buy them organic) is about a dollar a beet.. Bogus! Beet juice and beet powder are expensive too. Are beets really that expensive to grow?

(2) I like to cook everything from scratch, but beets are just a bear to cook! They take SOOO long to soften up. I’ve cooked certain beets practically forever, and STILL they were hard.

Other than that, I’m a big beet fan.

Should have said to cover the pot when making the soup stock. So sorry about that.

My mother-in-law’s Borscht

2 packages weighing in total about 2 1/2 – 3 lbs Pork hocks, rinsed
1 large onion, diced
2 large red waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into matchsticks

In a large soup pot, cover the pork hocks with cold water by about 2″. Bring to a boil, skimming as you simmer, then add the diced onion and 2 tsps. salt, cover and simmer 2 1/2 to 3 hours, adding the rinsed and drained potatoes for the last 20 minutes. When the pork is done, remove and once you get the fat off it, it is delicious so don’t throw it away.

Meanwhile you need 2 bunches of large beets with the leaves still attached. Cut the stems as close to the beets as possible and up to the leaves as far as possible. Wash the stems very well, and cut them in 1/4″ to 1/2″ pieces. Put in a large pot and cover with cold water. Peel the beets and cut them all into matchsticks or a little bigger. Add to the stems. Drain, rinse then add fresh water to cover. They need to cook for about 40 minutes – NO SALT added. Drain but keep the cooking liquid.

Add the cooked beets to the stock pot. give it a good stir. Add a couple of cups of the beet water and the juice of one or two big, juicy lemons. You could, as my mother-in-law does. add a cup of whipping cream, which is traditional, but my family need to be dairy-free, so we don’t add cream, and I think it’s way better. After you serve it, people can add salt and pepper and more lemon juice to taste. That’s what we like, more lemon and S&P

This makes a lot of soup which we have for dinner the day it’s made, and for lunch in the ensuing days. Keep in the refrigerator. It’s very good for you, very tasty and brings your blood pressure down. Yummy. We love it.

Keep the rest of the beet cooking water covered in the fridge and add it half and half with your morning orange juice.

You can use the leaves in a garlicky, oniony stir fry as a side dish on the next day, or you can make them into little beet rolls like cabbage rolls with rice and onion in them, but that’s another recipe. Look on the internet.

I really enjoy eating golden beets. The flavor is milder than red beets.
This is true of the tops, too. Have always liked beets, and the golden ones
are especially delicious.

I agree that Europeans consume a lot more beets than Americans. Americans with a Jewish or Slavic ethnic background are much more likely to eat (and like) beets. As a 2nd gen Polish-American, my grandmothers and mother regularly served beets — I thought everybody ate them like my family did. Come to find out, most Americans dislike beets, no matter how pretty they look. Ah well, all the more borscht for me! I have never ever had a problem with my blood pressure (and I’m a leading edge Boomer) — maybe the beets I eat could be part of the reason why!

I love beets. I like to steam them & then the peel slips right off (I use gloves). I then cut them up into about one inch pieces, add olive oil, chopped garlic, lemon juice and a bit of salt. I keep this in a covered bowl in the fridge & eat some daily until they are gone. Yummy!

when it comes to the juice one must look at the sugars that are in them…very hard to find a juice that has low grams of sugars….we switched to the pills

I do not want to take any supplements, although beet rood extract sonds attractive. Particularly in combating age-related dementia. I can buy canned beets or pickled beets. Would this be a good alternative? I have not seen beet juice in the stores like canned tomato juice.

Fascinating news re beet juice–and so few ounces compared to those who recommend up to 20 ounces daily of pure concord grape juice, for example, for improved blood flow to the brain?

I have heard that beets and beet juice greatly increase the chance of developing kidney stones, especially if one has such a history.

I’d like to ask everyone,…

-beetjuice, do you recommend a particular brand that I can purchase from my local grocer?

-beetpowder, are there any grocer or online (perhaps Amazon) recommendations?

I’d love to hear any and all ideas.

Thank You!

How much beetroot juice might provide brain benefits?

We’ll need more research to get a good answer to that question.

My BP has lowered to normal since I became vegan. That is, I probably get a lot of nitric acid in my diet through my plant diet. Beetroot definitely lowers blood pressure. Suggestions:

You can puree cooked beetroot with nuts ground fine, garlic, oil of choice and vinegar of choice–add a boiled potatoe or dried bread to the mix. Very nice with chips or fried potatoes, or any veggies.

Also to try: Grated beetroot with shallots:
1 lb peeled and coarsely grated raw beets, 1 fresh chilli sliced very fine (optional) ;2 large shallots, peeled and sliced very fine; 3 tablsps. oil, half a tspn. of mustard seeds; salt; 1 tablespoon lemon juice:
Pop mustard seed in hot oil, add shallots and chilli. Stir fry for 30 seconds. Add beets and stir for one minute. Add salt and 4 floz water. Bring to the boil. Cover, cook gently for 10 minutes. Uncover, turn up heat to medium and add lemon juice. Stir to mix and remove from heat.
(courtesy of): Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian

I simply love beets. Especially love them in a salad.

How much is a good recommended amount of beets or beet juice? Are fresh prepared beets better than commercially canned? Are beet powders in capsules or other suppliments just as effective as the juice or actual beet root? What does one look for when buying either canned or capsules?

I have added perhaps a half cup of sliced canned beets to my meals at work for quite some time, but really don’t know what amount or form would be considered enough to result in health benefits for both BP and brain health.

Thank you so much for this information!

The research has used three cups of beet juice daily. Since beet juice is concentrated, you could easily consume a few cups of cooked beets a day. Keep track of your results. You may be able to titrate the right amount for you.

Beet juice also costs a fortune.

Good morning! After reading Kristi’s comments from Chapel Hill, NC, I wish I could meet her! It’s a far cry from what I’m used to! Thank you for your time!

Raw beetroot juice has lowered my blood pressure. I drink 1/2 cup every day with two teaspoons apple cider vinegar. My systolic BP is down about 10. When I stopped taking the beetroot juice my systolic BP increased by the same amount. It works!!

As healthy as beet root may be [so often used as an aid in cancer treatment] I have never seen any spectacular results on hypertension.

Can any reader testify that it works so well for hypertension??

Your article speaks of red beets. Are there similar benefits from eating the golden variety?

We don’t know if the color is essential for the blood vessel relaxing effect, but we suspect it is not. We’ll be on the lookout for research to answer this question.

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