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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.

Image Credit: UGA College of Ag & Environmental Sciences / Flickr. This image has been modified.

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