Happy Friday, y'all! I'm very excited to announce Fit Food Friday's here on PB&P. Each week will feature a different food and discussing it's health and fitness benefits!
The beet is a root vegetable that belongs to the chenopod family (with others like spinach, chard and quinoa). Most people are familiar with the red/purple color of the beet root, but they can be yellow/golden too! The green leaves attached to the end of beet roots are also edible and taste a lot like spinach or Swiss chard. While beets (unfortunately) are not most people's favorite vegetable, they're packed with lots of vitamins and minerals and offer up great health benefits to both athletes and non-athletes alike.
Beets are naturally low in sodium & fat and are also good sources of folate, potassium, Vitamin C, manganese and fiber. Beets do have a high sugar content, which makes them a sweet addition to salads, soups and mixed dishes. My personal favorite way to enjoy beets is to combine them with goat cheese and/or walnuts on a flat bread pizza or tossed in a spinach salad!
If you are a fellow fitness fanatic, you've likely already read about how eating beets (or drinking beet juice) can improve exercise performance. Including nutritious root vegetables in your everyday diet will definitely promote a healthy body weight, in turn leading to enhanced athletic ability. However the key players in the connection between beets and improved performance are nitrates. These are different than nitrites, which are the preservatives found in processed meats like hot dogs and bacon that have been linked to cancer and other negative health outcomes. Nitrates have been shown to increase the efficiency of oxygen uptake by our body and muscles.
There are several published research studies showing that supplementation with beet root juice enhances both power output and VO2 max (maximum oxygen consumption) in cyclists and other endurance athletes. However, a 2012 study in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that single servings of beet juice immediately prior to exercise did not perform short-term performance in cyclists. Ultimately, further research needs to be conducted to provide solid results that can be extrapolated to larger populations and show true improvements in athletic performance.
In the meantime, I definitely recommend including beets in your vegetable repertoire for its antiinflammatory and antioxidant benefits...with an added possiblility of improved exercise potential!
A few interesting side notes...Some people do experience changes in urine and/or stool color when consuming beets on a regular basis. So if you're stool turns pink/red, this is totally normal...but just make sure you're able to identify that the redness is not blood, which of course is not normal. And finally, if I've inspired you to roast (or steam or pickle) some beets at home, but you prefer not to have pink-stained fingers, you might want to wear gloves during handling! :)