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In 2012, athletes Dylan Wykes, Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis represented Canada in the 2012 London Olympics in marathon running. While they didn’t win any medals, together they ranked in the top 25. If you consider that they were competing against more than 100 top performers from 69 countries in their field, they surpassed 75-80 percent of their competition.
One thing they credited was a certain red “dirty-tasting” drink. This drink boosted their body’s levels of naturally-occurring nitric oxide (NO) — a gas produced in your blood vessels that signals arteries and veins to open up wide, increasing blood circulation — and gave them an edge (a legal edge mind you) over their competition.
This drink is beetroot juice and over the last decade — and especially since the 2012 Olympics — its popularity has exploded within fitness communities all over the United States.
Recently another group has taken an interest in beetroots and it isn’t for fitness gains…
Instead, they’re using it to treat high-profile inflammatory conditions like neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases.
Beets: The latest frontier in fighting deep-rooted inflammation
When inflammation goes unchecked for too long, the nervous system becomes damaged and can lead to diseases like Alzheimer’s or multiple sclerosis. That’s just one reason inflammation is known as the root cause of disease.
In a study put out by the Medical Institute of Pharmacology in Vienna, researchers were able to isolate a small protein peptide molecule from the beetroot. What they discovered was that this isolated protein molecule inhibited the enzymes responsible for breaking down molecules responsible for regulating inflammation.
According to Christian Gruber, the lead researcher, “…Our attention was drawn to a possible function as so-called ‘protease inhibitors.’ The beetroot peptide can inhibit enzymes that digest proteins.”
This discovery is just one of the many health benefits of beetroots. And while this specific research on beet protein peptides is still in its early stages, other research has already shown that beet consumption can combat the effects of inflammation in other ways…
As mentioned earlier, beets are full of nitrates that turn into nitric oxide. Scientists writing in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience looked at more than 100 papers that spanned 20-years of research into the benefits of nitric oxide. What they found was that aside from relaxing blood vessels, nitric oxide helps to promote what is known as synaptic plasticity in our central nervous system.
Our synapses play a role in everything from finite motor skills like moving our fingers to more specialized functions like processing information in your mind. Over time, your synapses wear down from oxidation, stress factors like pollution, and just general wear-and-tear. Research from the Baylor College of Medicine shows that excess inflammation weakens your synapses, making you more prone to Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Simple strategies to get the benefits of beets
Potential pharmaceutical candidates, like the small protein peptide molecule from the beetroot, are chemically synthesized in a modified form based on the natural product to create a drug that your doctor may one day be able to prescribe.
Until that day comes, there’s no reason not to take advantage of the many benefits of nitric oxide or the newly discovered peptide molecule — both from beets. According to the researchers, the beetroot peptide can be detected in beetroot juice, although in low concentrations.
Beets aren’t the most popular of vegetables for a couple of reasons — their earthy flavor and potential to stain everything in your kitchen during food prep. But with a little practice, even a novice chef can work them into delicious recipes without much trouble…
Add beets to your favorite recipes: Thanks to its earthy and slightly sweet flavor, beets can be enjoyed in a number of various dishes, as well as enjoyed on their own.
Here are a few ways to enjoy beets in regular day-to-day foods:
- Add diced beets in with your afternoon salad
- Add diced beets to a fruit salad
- Use beet puree in place of tomato paste (Chili, pasta sauce, soups, etc.)
- Mix a small amount of beet puree with hummus for extra antioxidants
- Beet puree also mixes great with yogurt, cottage cheese and oatmeal
And here are some ways that beets can be enjoyed with minimal ingredients (or none at all):
- Beets pickled in tangy vinegar (compliments the earthy flavor)
- Baked beet chips with a sprinkle of rosemary and salt
- Instant Pot beets reduces prep work, making for quick eats
Grab a bottle of beet juice: If dicing beets and making beet puree isn’t your cup of tea, another way of getting the nutritional boost that beets offer is by drinking beet juice.
One 8-ounce cup of beet juice contains approximately 4 red beets, so expect to get four-times the nutrients from drinking just one glass of this superfood.
What used to once be available only in health food stores, now you can find beetroot juice at just about any grocery store. If possible, check to see if your grocer carries a fermented beetroot option. Fermented beet juice contains probiotics which regular beet juice doesn’t and because the beets are fermented, it means they breakdown easier in your digestive tract and is much more easily absorbed.
Make beetroot juice without the mess: Over the last few years, beetroot powder has grown in popularity because there no mess or cleaning required. A powdered version means it’s quick and easy to make — just add water or my personal favorite, coconut water.
Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!
Beetroot peptide as potential drug candidate for treating diseases — Science Daily
Calabrese, V, et al. “Nitric oxide in the central nervous system: neuroprotection versus neurotoxicity.” Nature Reviews. Neuroscience. 2007 Oct;8(10):766-75.
Roy E R, et al. “Type I interferon response drives neuroinflammation and synapse loss in Alzheimer disease.” The Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2020 Apr 1;130(4):1912-1930.