There is more reason than ever to love beets or to start loving them if you don’t. That’s because a new study found that beets may actually help protect our brain from harmful plaques and may even be a natural treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
According to recent research published in The Journals of Gerontology, beets are not just the pretty faces of the vegetable world. Researchers at the University of South Florida in Tampa found that betanin—a compound that gives beets their rich purple color—interacts with plaques in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease, interfering with some of the plaques’ harmful effects in the brain.
The researchers assessed the effects of drinking beet juice on the brain and found that, not only did the beet juice halt the harmful effects of plaque in the brain, it improved networks of connections within the brain to resemble healthier, younger brains in those who drank the beverage.
Because the over-accumulation of plaques in the brain is a key characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease and beet juice demonstrated the ability to interfere with the effects of the plaques, researchers believe that the beverage holds promise in the treatment of the brain disease. When excessive amounts of plaques form in the brain they interfere with the brain’s networks of connections and the signalling between the connections, which are precisely how the brain orchestrates its myriad brain and bodily functions.
The University of South Florida in Tampa researchers obtained their impressive results on brain health by getting subjects to drink beet juice just prior to their aerobic workouts. Of course, exercise also boost oxygen-rich blood circulation to the brain but the researchers accounted for this effect and still found beet juice offered its brain-health effects.
Interestingly, earlier research published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that the addition of beets to the diets of cyclists made a difference to oxygen uptake, particularly in high altitudes where oxygen deficits can be difficult for athletes. The ability of beets to increase oxygenation could also be one of the reasons why the vegetables help to boost brain health: their circulatory benefits may also help boost oxygen to the brain.
And, the use of beet juice just prior to exercise may offer more than just brain and health benefits as well. That’s because research in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that beets increase oxygenation of the muscles and increases exercise endurance. So don’t be surprised if you can run a bit further or do more steps on your stepper, or even just feel less winded after a long walk.
You’ll probably experience more health benefits than you imagined if you add beets to your daily diet. That’s because the root vegetable superfoods contain powerful anti-inflammatory compounds known as betalains. Inflammation has been linked to most serious chronic illnesses including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Beets are also high in colorful pigments known as anthocyanins, which have been found to reduce allergy symptoms and help fight cancer too.
There are many ways to get more beets in your diet. Here are several to help you get started:
-Add a beet to your favorite veggie juice. If you’re not a huge fan of the taste of beets, add an apple or other fruit to make it more palatable.
-Add grated beetroot to your favorite coleslaw recipe for a boost of betanin and other key nutrients found in beets.
-Add grated beetroot to cabbage before fermenting it into sauerkraut. Check your local health food store for fermented foods that may contain beets. Be sure to choose only those in the refrigerator to ensure they are raw and contain live cultures too.
-Of course, you can still eat pickled beets but choose only those pickled in more natural pickling liquid than the typical white vinegar. Keep in mind that these foods are less beneficial than other forms of beets.
-No discussion on beets would be complete without mentioning Borscht, the delicious soup that includes beets as one of its primary ingredients.
-I love beets steamed with the addition of sea salt and a little flax oil when serving them.
-Roast beets in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour and than eat on their own or add to a green salad or cooked quinoa for a delicious warm salad.
Raw beets offer the greatest health benefits, but roasting or steaming are preferable to boiling them as most of the water-soluble nutrients are lost in the cook water.