“The nitrates in beetroot are so active that it’s being investigated for controlling blood pressure on intensive care units,” says a new article written by Dr Christoffer Van Tulleken, an infectious disease specialist at University College London.
In the article, Dr Van Tulleken says, “when beetroot hit the headlines a few years ago with claims about improved athletic performance and lower blood pressure, many probably dismissed them. I certainly did.”
He continues, however, by saying how this changed when he met Dr Andrew Webb, a consultant physician at Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London, specialising in blood pressure management who has been studying beetroot for several years (funded partly by the British Heart Foundation).
Dr Webb found that beetroot does, in fact, lower blood pressure.
Dr Van Tulleken and Dr Webb have put the findings to the test – comparing beetroot against foods about which there have been similar claims: garlic and watermelon.
How might these foods help with blood pressure?
- Garlic contains allicin, an organosulfur compound which makes garlic smell. It’s also believed to act on our kidneys, changing levels of hormones and causing the blood vessels to open up.
- Watermelon is thought to boost the levels of nitric acid, a compound that causes blood vessels to open up. Watermelon contains amino acids that can help generate nitric oxide.
- Beetroot is also thought to boost the levels of nitric acid due to its high concentration of nitrates: when you eat beetroot these nitrates are absorbed into the blood, then secreted in your saliva. In the saliva, nitrates are metabolised by the bacteria on the back of your tongue into nitrite – this is then further metabolised into nitric oxide.
During the test, each volunteer had to take their blood pressure three times each morning and evening. On average, systolic pressure went down to from 130 to 128.7 when consuming beetroot, compared with 129.3 for garlic and 129.7 for watermelon. Note: lower numbers are better.
Dr Van Tulleken says, “all these results were comparable to those of a low dose of a blood pressure drug: over a lifetime and combined with other lifestyle changes, beetroot will reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks.”
I love juicing beetroot and am not surprised to hear of it’s health benefits. One of my favourite beetroot recipes is The Red One.
Other sources of nitrates include celery, lettuce, watercress, rocket, spinach, chard, fennel and radish.
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