Ever noticed that your urine turns a bit pink after you eat beets? Though the color looks a little unnatural, it’s a completely harmless and temporary condition called beeturia. It’s a vivid reminder of an important fact: When you eat plant foods, many of the pigment phytonutrients that act as antioxidants in your body (such as lycopene and beta-carotene) are absorbed into the bloodstream and bathe your organs, tissues, and cells. In other words, beet pigments find their way into your urine because they are absorbed through the gut and then travel into the bloodstream, where they circulate throughout the body until eventually being filtered out by the kidneys. During this trip through the body, even your blood becomes a bit pinker too.
Beets, as well as greens, are rich in natural nitrates, which your body can convert into nitric oxide. This process explains why researchers have been able to show a ten-point systolic blood pressure drop in volunteers within hours of their consuming beet juice—an effect that lasted throughout the day.
Nitrates not only help deliver oxygenated blood to your muscles by helping dilate your arteries but also enable your body to extract more energy from that oxygen—something never before thought possible. One little shot of beet juice, for example, has been found to allow free divers to hold their breath for a half minute longer than usual. And, after sipping beet juice, cyclists were able to perform at the same level of intensity while consuming 19 percent less oxygen than the placebo group. Then, when they ramped up their bike resistance for an intense bout of what they called “severe cycling,” the time to exhaustion was extended from 9:43 minutes to 11:15 minutes. The beet-juice-drinking group exhibited greater endurance while using less oxygen. In short, the beet juice made the bikers’ bodies’ energy production significantly more efficient. No drug, steroid, supplement, or intervention had ever before been shown to do what beet juice could do, and this effect works with whole beets too.
The information on this page has been compiled from Dr. Greger’s research. Sources for each video listed can be found by going to the video’s page and clicking on the Sources Cited tab. References may also be found at the back of his books.
Image Credit: UGA College of Ag & Environmental Sciences / Flickr. This image has been modified.
Popular Videos for Beets
All Videos for Beets
Kidney Stones and Spinach, Chard, and Beet Greens: Don’t Eat Too Much
Given their oxalate content, how much is too much spinach, chard, beet greens, chaga mushroom powder, almonds, cashews, star fruit, and instant tea?
Oxalates in Spinach and Kidney Stones: Should We Be Concerned?
Even though dietary oxalates may have a limited effect on kidney stone risk in most people, there are some predisposing factors that can put anyone at risk.
Best Foods for Halitosis & Gingivitis
The best and worst foods for bad breath and gum inflammation.
Best Brain Foods: Greens & Beets Put to the Test
Cocoa and nitrite-rich vegetables, such as green leafies and beets, are put to the test for cognitive function.
Best Brain Foods: Berries & Nuts Put to the Test
Randomized controlled studies put nuts, berries, and grape juice to the test for cognitive function.
Are There Benefits of Energy Drinks?
The effects of Red Bull and Monster brand energy drinks on artery function and athletic performance.
Dr. Greger in the Kitchen: My New Favorite Beverage
Dr. Greger blends up a vegetable smoothie inspired by a recipe in his How Not to Die Cookbook.
The Best Way to Get Vitamin D: Sun, Supplements, or Salons?
If one is going to make an evolutionary argument for what a “natural” vitamin D level may be, how about getting vitamin D in the way nature intended—that is, from the sun instead of supplements?
Slowing Our Metabolism with Nitrate-Rich Vegetables
The reason greens are associated with a significantly longer lifespan may be because, like caloric restriction, they improve our energy efficiency.
Fennel Seeds to Improve Athletic Performance
What are the pros and cons of fennel fruits as a cheap, easy-to-find, light-weight, nonperishable source of nitrates?