What You Don’t Know About Beets: Health Benefits and Risks

Beets are packed with healthy nutrients, like five essential vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium, and protein. But they can also have some surprising side effects.

Compiled by Alyssa Jung from Foods That Harm, Foods That Heal (Reader's Digest Association)
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    Health Benefit: Beets fight cancer

    Beets contain high levels of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents that studies show may help reduce the risk of some cancers. They get their striking red color from betacyanin, a plant pigment that some preliminary research indicates might help defend cells against harmful carcinogens. Also, high levels of a unique fiber found in beets may be linked to a lower colon cancer risk. Dr. Mehmet Oz has said on sharecare.com that adding a quarter cup of beets to your daily diet could cut your kidney cancer risk.

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    Health Benefit: Beets lower risk of heart disease

    Beets are a good source of folate and betaine. These nutrients act together to help lower blood levels of homocysteine, which can increase your risk of heart disease by causing artery-damaging inflammation.

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    Health Benefit: Beets boost eye health

    Beet greens are a good source of lutein, an antioxidant that helps protect the eyes from age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. They also contain a wide variety of phytochemicals that may help improve the health of your eyes and nerve tissues.

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    Health Benefit: Beets boost endurance

    British researchers conducted studies that found athletes who drank beet juice mixed with a little apple juice before working out reported better endurance and a lower resting blood pressure than those who did not. The performance boost is thought to be from the nitrates found in the root. Additional research suggests that a beet-apple juice mixture could make certain activities (like walking) less exhausting for seniors.

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    Health Benefit: Beets reduce dementia risk

    Beets produce nitric acid, which helps increase blood flow throughout your body, including to your brain. MRIs done on older adults showed that after eating a high-nitrate diet that included beet juice, the subjects had more blood flow to the white matter of their frontal lobes.

    Health Benefit: Beets combat constipation

    Fiber helps keep your digestive system running smoothly, and beets are chock full of it.

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    Health Risk: Beets contribute to kidney stones

    If you're prone to kidney stones, you might want to eat beet greens with caution. They're high in oxalates, which can form small crystals and contribute to the development of kidney stones. 

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    Health Risk: Beets could cause gout

    Beets are high in oxalate, which can contribute to gout, a type of arthritis that develops when too much uric acid builds up in the body.

    Health Risk: Beets discolor your stool

    You might find beets help you go to the bathroom, but don't be alarmed if your urine or stool is pink or red. It's not blood; and is actually harmless.