Beet juice, also called beetroot juice, is a beverage made primarily from the bulb of the Beta vulgaris or beet plant. Beets are generally known for sweet, earthy taste and their bright red color, but they can also be orange or yellow. Some people also add beet greens (the top of the plant) to the juice for extra nutrition. Other ingredients such as apple juice, ginger, lemon, or cucumber are also sometimes included in various beet juice recipes.
Beet juice and beet juice powder are widely promoted for their health benefits. Unfortunately, not all of those benefits are supported by strong scientific evidence. There are even some downsides to drinking this beverage reported by some consumers. The health benefits of beet juice and side effects of beetroot juice will depend, in part, on the ingredients that are used to make it. Consider both the pros and cons of beet juice before making it a regular part of your diet.
Beet Juice Nutrition
Beets are naturally low in fat and calories. A cup of beets provides about 59 calories, mostly from carbohydrates, according to nutrition data supplied by the USDA. Beets are an excellent source of folate and provide other nutrients such as vitamin C, manganese, and potassium. Beet greens are also very low in calories, with just 8 calories per cup. They are an excellent source of vitamins A and K.
Since ingredients vary in beet juice recipes, the nutrition data can also vary significantly. According to the USDA, a 100-gram serving (roughly three ounces) of beet juice made just from beets and water provides about 25 calories, 6 grams of carbs, less than one gram of protein, and almost no fat. But a similar serving of beet juice made with orange juice and carrot juice contains 42 calories, 10 grams of carbs, and less than a gram of protein and fat.
Health Benefits of Beet Juice
If you're looking to gain positive side effects from drinking beetroot juice you'll have to consume the beverage on a regular basis to see any benefits. But research has shown that you may gain certain health advantages.
May Lower Blood Pressure
Some studies suggest that beet juice may be able to help lower blood pressure. A research review published in 2018 found evidence that supplementing the diet with beetroot juice may be helpful in controlling the blood pressure in healthy people and in those who have been diagnosed with hypertension. Researchers believe that the dietary nitrates in beets are responsible for the positive effects. And another study published in Nutritional Journal also found that beetroot juice lowers blood pressure in healthy men when they drink it as part of a normal diet.
Of course, you should talk to your healthcare provider about including beet juice in your diet if you plan to use it to treat or manage hypertension. Your provider can give you personalized guidance about supplementation and make sure that it won't interact negatively with any medications you are currently taking.
May Help Fight Cancer
Some researchers believe that polyphenols, flavonoids, dietary nitrates, and other nutrients in beets may help prevent cancer and may even help some people fight cancer by counteracting the negative effects of chemotherapy. In one published report, scientists explain that red beetroots may be able to disrupt carcinogenesis by preventing oxidative stress and inflammation. Polyphenols and flavonoids are antioxidants that can help prevent damage to cells.
Beets are also known to contain a compound called betacyanin that improves cell respiration and stops or slows the growth of cancer cells. Betacyanin is the nitrogen-containing compound that gives beets their bright red color.
Remember, many alternative cancer treatments have not been proven through conventional research, but they do offer an intriguing glimpse into what the average person should consider consuming in the quest to remain healthy.
May Enhance Sports Performance
The nitrates in beetroot juice may help stave off exercise fatigue and improve athletic performance. For instance, one research review published in 2021 suggested that consuming 70 milliliters (about 2.5 ounces) of beetroot juice twice a day for at least 3-6 days could lead to improved fatigue resistance in athletes performing repeated sprints. And another study suggested that beetroot juice supplementation may help improve cardiorespiratory endurance and possibly even cardiorespiratory performance at anaerobic levels in athletes.
But study authors also point out that results have varied in different research projects, so more research needs to be conducted to fully understand this potential benefit.
Side Effects of Beetroot Juice
Even though beet juice provides important nutrients and may enhance your health, there are some beetroot juice side effects to keep in mind.
If you're drinking a lot of beet juice, your urine or stools may take on a peculiar pink or red color. Researchers call this condition "beeturia." It's a side effect of drinking lots of beet juice. Scientists say that the condition occurs in about 10% to 14% of the population and you are more likely to get it if you are iron deficient.
Because the condition is harmless, there is no treatment for beeturia, other than reducing or eliminating beets and beet juice from your diet. You may also want to be sure that you consume enough iron.
Kidney stones, also known as nephrolithiasis, can be caused by dietary factors. If you ever have had kidney stones or currently have a kidney stone, experts advise that you refrain from consuming beets or beet juice. Medical experts think that the high oxalate content may increase the likelihood or severity of kidney stones. Other high oxaliate foods include spinach, green cabbage, nuts, tea, chocolate, and rhubarb.
Increased Nitrate Levels
Some researchers have concerns that consuming beetroot juice might increase your nitrate intake above the acceptable daily intake. This is concerning because high nitrates can stimulate the formation of carcinogenic compounds. However, they also note that the amount evidence regarding this negative effect is limited. Still, some researchers who study beet juice consumption in athletes still advise that it is important to be cautious about chronic beet juice supplementation.
Vocal Cord Problems
One of the more widely-promoted dangers of beet juice is a feeling of tightness in the throat or trouble speaking. Some sources say that it can be a side effect of drinking too much beet juice. However, high-quality scientific evidence supporting this purported side effect is lacking.
Although it is rare, some people are allergic to beets and should not consume beet juice or beetroot juice. Symptoms may include a red rash or difficulty breathing. In severe cases, it can result in anaphylaxis. Experts advise that you get treated by an allergist if you suspect an allergy and avoid the food.
How to Make Beet Juice
Learning to make veggie and fruit juices at home is a great way to get important micronutrients into your diet without the expense of going to a pricey juice bar. To juice beets (or any type of produce), you'll need a high-quality juicer such as the Vitamix, Champion, or Norwalk types. Some people also just use a blender. When you use a blender, some of the fiber from your fruits and vegetables remains intact. As a result, the beverage is thicker.
Best Beets for Juicing
Use fresh beets for making beet juice. Choose small to medium-sized beets that feel firm when you squeeze them. Soft beets indicate that the vegetables are past their prime. Also, look for beets with greens that are not wilted.
Beets are in season from June through October. This is the time of year when it is easiest to find young, tender beets for juicing. Along with the popular reddish-purple beet, other varieties of beets are available including a golden yellow, white, and even a colorful rainbow beet.
How to Juice Beets
Be sure that your beets are clean before juicing or blending them. You can remove the skin, but you don't have to. You'll probably find that keeping the skins on makes the process less messy. Remove the greens and clean them as well if you plan to add them to the mix.
Once your ingredients are prepped, add them to your juicer or blender according to the juice manufacturer's instructions. Usually, you need a slower speed for soft ingredients (like melon or greens) and a faster speed for tougher ingredients like beets.
Taste your blend along the way to see if it needs added sweetness or tartness.
Create Your Own Beet Juice Recipe
Many people enjoy the juice from beets in combination with other juices. With some experimentation, you will develop your own favorite fruit and vegetable juice recipes.
What tastes good with beets? Adding freshly juiced apples, carrots or other fruits makes beet juice more palatable and increases the range of nutrients that you benefit from. If you prefer a juice with less sweetness, consider adding ginger, cucumber, or lemon juice to your blend. Always use fresh juices for the best taste.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Beet Juice
Ounce for ounce, beet juice is a healthy drink. Combined with other fresh vegetable juices, it's a tonic packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Beets are inexpensive, easy to juice, and taste good.
Keep in mind that if you mix beet juice with other freshly pressed vegetable juices, the negative side effects might be minimized because the beet juice will be diluted. But you can still reap the nutritious benefits of beet juice. Whether you should drink beet juice will depend on your personal health concerns and tolerance. Just be sure to check with your doctor before adding it as a regular part of your diet.