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Beets, and in particular beetroot juice, are known to have many health benefits. For example, beets are great for your cardiovascular well-being.1 That is, eating this vegetable promotes a healthy heart and a good flow of blood throughout the body. Beets may also have some benefits for diabetes.
Beets also have a high fibre content, which is said to improve your performance while exercising.1 A lifestyle with positive habits like exercising is strongly encouraged for people with diabetes. This contributes to the reason why high-fibre foods like beets have been recommended by many national diabetes associations for diabetics to include in their diets.
Incorporating beets into the diet can work to help lower blood pressure, in addition to regular medication.2 New research has found that drinking beetroot juice once a day for 4 weeks can lower blood pressure, even in people with hypertension.2
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a common condition that people with type 2 diabetes may experience. Since beets have the ability to improve the circulation of blood, people with diabetes may benefit from consuming beets regularly.
Recommendations from the American Diabetes Association
The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes consume three to five servings of non-starchy vegetables every day.3 These types of vegetables can be eaten either fresh, frozen, canned, or as juices.
Available in all of these forms, beets are one of the vitamin-rich vegetables that the American Diabetes Association lists for eating well as a diabetic.3
Many other national diabetes associations have recommended that people with diabetes consume high-fiber foods.
Beets and levels of blood sugar
If you are a person that is diagnosed with diabetes, your body cannot move enough sugar out of your blood and into your cells. At the same time, your body is unable to produce enough insulin.
Insulin is a hormone that regulates sugar levels in the blood. Without enough insulin in the body, the levels of blood sugar will increase after eating a meal. That is why people with diabetes suffer from high blood sugar. Symptoms of high blood sugar include tiredness, blurred vision, recurrent infections, stomach pain, thirst, and more.4
Research has found that that beet juice is able to improve insulin sensitivity in obese adults.5 This suggests that beets can help obese diabetics that are trying to reduce their blood sugar levels.
A study done in 2014 tried to better understand the positive effects of beetroot juice. In particular, the study wanted to see what would happen to a person’s blood sugar levels after they had eaten food, if they also drank beetroot juice.6
The results showed that drinking even half a cup of beetroot juice, equivalent to 225 milliliters, was effective at lowering blood sugar levels.6 This makes beets an essential vegetable for people with diabetes, as they struggle to maintain low blood sugar levels.
Can eating beets and drinking beetroot juice reduce the risks of diabetes?
Since diabetes typically comes with other risks like hypertension, the disease can lead to blood vessels getting damaged. Once blood vessels become damaged, this will negatively affect many parts of the body. Complications from diabetes may include the following:
- Cardiovascular diseases,7 increased risk of stroke, heart attack or sharp chest pains.
- Kidney diseases,7 meaning that waste from the blood can no longer occur in a normal manner.
- Eye diseases, increased risk of blindness or other vision problems.
In order to reduce the severity of diabetes and its complications, research has shown that having antioxidants in the diet is very important.8 Antioxidants can help boost the immune system and protect cells from some serious damage.
A study of hundreds of fruits and vegetables has found that red beets score in the medium range of strength as antioxidants.9 This suggests that beets have a safe and useful concentration of antioxidants that can improve the quality of life for people with diabetes.
Beets as a source of nitrates
Another essential component of beets is that they are a great source of nitrates. Nitrates can be helpful for relaxing veins and reducing blood pressure.
Interestingly, a study from 2014 reported that the nitrates in beets serve a greater purpose than just improving blood flow. The results showed that after using beetroot juice for two weeks, people with type 2 diabetes had significantly improved their cognitive abilities.10 In particular, adding beetroot juice to their diet was associated with better reaction times for these diabetics.10
- Vegetables – Importance of Quality Vegetables to Human Health. (2018). In A. Md & A. Toshiki (Eds.), Vegetables – Importance of Quality Vegetables to Human Health. https://doi.org/10.5772/intechopen.70972
- Kapil, V., Khambata, R. S., Robertson, A., Caulfield, M. J., & Ahluwalia, A. (2015). Dietary Nitrate Provides Sustained Blood Pressure Lowering in Hypertensive Patients. Hypertension, 65(2), 320–327. https://doi.org/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.114.04675
- Non-starchy Vegetables | ADA. (n.d.). Retrieved August 17, 2021, from https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/eating-well/non-starchy-vegetables
- Hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) – NHS. (2018, August 8). https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-blood-sugar-hyperglycaemia/
- Beals, J. W., Binns, S. E., Davis, J. L., Giordano, G. R., Klochak, A. L., Paris, H. L., Schweder, M. M., Peltonen, G. L., Scalzo, R. L., & Bell, C. (2017). Concurrent Beet Juice and Carbohydrate Ingestion: Influence on Glucose Tolerance in Obese and Nonobese Adults. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/6436783
- Wootton-Beard, P. C., Brandt, K., Fell, D., Warner, S., & Ryan, L. (2014). Effects of a beetroot juice with high neobetanin content on the early-phase insulin response in healthy volunteers. Journal of Nutritional Science, 3, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1017/JNS.2014.7
- Facilitating behavior change and well-being to improve health outcomes: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes-2020. (2020). Diabetes Care, 43, S48–S65. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc20-S005
- Montonen, J., Knekt, P., Järvinen, R., & Reunanen, A. (2004). Dietary Antioxidant Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 27(2), 362–366. https://doi.org/10.2337/DIACARE.27.2.362
- Carlsen, M. H., Halvorsen, B. L., Holte, K., Bøhn, S. K., Dragland, S., Sampson, L., Willey, C., Senoo, H., Umezono, Y., Sanada, C., Barikmo, I., Berhe, N., Willett, W. C., Phillips, K. M., Jacobs, D. R., Jr, & Blomhoff, R. (2010). The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide. Nutrition Journal, 9(1), 3. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-9-3
- Gilchrist, M., Winyard, P. G., Fulford, J., Anning, C., Shore, A. C., & Benjamin, N. (2014). Dietary nitrate supplementation improves reaction time in type 2 diabetes: Development and application of a novel nitrate-depleted beetroot juice placebo. Nitric Oxide, 40, 67–74. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.NIOX.2014.05.003
- Image by Tracy Lundgren from Pixabay