Can I Lower My Blood Pressure With Beetroot Juice?
Beetroot juice for high blood pressure?
Beetroot juice. Not the first thing you think of when pondering how to quench your thirst. Probably also not the first thing you think of when wondering how to lower your blood pressure. Yet medical studies are showing that drinking beet juice for lower blood pressure could be a very good idea.
Beet juice for lower blood pressure: the evidence
Several recent studies have found that drinking beet (or beetroot) juice lowers blood pressure.
For example, researchers at Queen Mary University in London (UK) conducted a couple of studies with men and women with high blood pressure. The most recent study involved 64 men and women with high blood pressure. Half of them were given one cup (about 250ml or 8 ounces) of beet juice a day for four weeks while the other half got a placebo drink.
Those drinking the beet juice had their blood pressure lowered by an average of 8/4 mmHg (systolic/diastolic). It was also found that their blood vessels were able to dilate (expand) more readily and became less stiff compared to the other 32 people in the study who just got the placebo drink.
Rresearchers at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia found a cup of beetroot juice lowered systolic blood pressure by 4-5 mmHg in healthy men within a few hours of their drinking it. So drinking beet juice regularly may be good for preventing high blood pressure developing as well as for reducing high blood pressure once you have it.
How are beets good for blood pressure?
Beets, or beetroots, are full of naturally occurring nitrates which are converted by your body into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is well known to lower blood pressure in a couple of different ways. Firstly, it relaxes the smooth muscle which lines the walls of your blood vessels. This allows the cavity in your blood vessels to expand, enabling blood to flow more easily.
Nitric oxide also seems to help control inflammation in the blood vessels, inhibiting the release of platelets (which enable clotting) and thus reducing the tendency of your blood to thicken and clot, again with the effect of improving blood flow.
(Obscure fact: Nitric oxide was named “molecule of the year” in 1992.)
The size of the blood pressure-lowering effect of beetroot is similar to that of blood pressure medications. And, unlike blood pressure drugs, drinking beet juice isn’t known to have difficult side-effects!
As Dr Ahluwalia, lead author of the London study, said, “This research has proven that a daily inorganic nitrate dose can be as effective as medical intervention in reducing blood pressure and the best part is we can get it from beetroot and other leafy green vegetables.”
Other good things in beets
Beets also contain “betaine” – a nutrient which helps protect cells from stress and toxins (e.g., caused by pollution) and which reduces inflammation (inflammation is now thought to be a key factor in high blood pressure, and indeed many common modern diseases).
Beetroots are also rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants (like those which give them their deep colour) and potassium – all of which are helpful in lowering blood pressure.
Other benefits of beets
Because of all these goodies, drinking beetroot juice regularly will boost your immune system and may also help limit some cancers. Drinking beet juice also seems to boost stamina during exercise, with one study finding folk who drank beetroot juice before exercising were able to keep going about 16% longer.
How much beet juice to lower blood pressure?
The researchers point out that more studies are needed into beet juice for lower blood pressure to discover how long-term these effects can be.
In the studies mentioned above, the blood pressure-lowering effect of the beet juice was the strongest a few hours after drinking it, but seemed to linger for up to a day, when people just had a single drink.
In the London study where they drank beet juice daily for four weeks the beneficial effects seem to wear off about two weeks after the study ended.
So it looks like need to keep drinking beetroot juice, or eating beets, regularly to keep up the beneficial effects on blood pressure. However, you don’t need to drink a huge amount of beetroot juice – a little often should do it.
Indeed, commenting on an earlier study, Dr Ahluwalia said “We were surprised by how little nitrate was needed to see such a large effect […] This study shows that, compared to individuals with healthy blood pressure, much less nitrate is needed to produce the kinds of decreases in blood pressure that might provide clinical benefits in people who need to lower their blood pressure.”
Where can I get beetroot juice for lower blood pressure?
Beet juice isn’t mainstream yet – though its healthy properties are becoming more widely known – so you’re best bet is to look in health food stores and high-end supermarkets.
Beet juice on its own is quite strong – it’s an acquired taste, you could say. So you can mix it with a little apple or orange juice to sweeten it a little.
You can also make your own – if you have (or get) a juicer or blender. A classic juice recipe is to blend beetroots with root ginger, carrots and apples. It’s unbelievably good for you and with enough of a zing to perk you up!
If you’re interested in making juices and smoothies, there’s more info in our article here: juices and smoothies for lower blood pressure
Or you can always buy it on Amazon as a last resort: Organic beet juice (amazon.com)
Do I have to drink beet juice? Can’t I just eat beets/beetroots?
No you don’t have to drink beet juice for lower blood pressure. You can get the same beet benefits by eating beetroot and/or by eating other foods which are rich in nitrates, such as leafy greens like kale, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, and leeks, string beans, carrots…
The amount of nitrate in the beetroot juice in the London study was about the same amount as that contained in two beetroots or a big bowl of lettuce.
Some ideas for eating beetroots/beets for lower blood pressure
Raw beets in salad
Raw beets are really good grated up in salads, with just a little olive oil, a dash of apple cider vinegar and herbs.
Or slow roast some beet(roots) along with other root vegetables for a delicious winter warmer. Some nutrients are lost in the cooking process but nitrates isn’t one of them, so cooked beetroots will give you as many nitrates as raw beets, though heating beetroots will mean you’ll lose some of their vitamin C and antioxidants.
Eat the beet greens
And eat the greens too – the beetroot leaves – as these are possibly even more nutritious than the beet roots. They’re nice sauteed gently with other leafy greens like spinach or chard (a tip from Dr Mercola – more info here: cooking beet greens).
Or make borscht – a delicious Russian beet soup.
One last thing – don’t be alarmed when you go to the toilet and everything’s pink… that’s just the beets coming through.
More ways to lower your blood pressure naturally
Eating or drinking beets is one thing you can do to help lower your blood pressure naturally, but if you’re blood pressure is high, then you’re probably going to need to do a bit more.
There are many many delicious things you can eat more of to bring down your blood pressure and improve your health in general, and there’s also a lot you can do activity-wise, from different kinds of exercise to techniques to reduce stress and relax more.
It’s not hard to make any of these changes, but it can be a bit overwhelming knowing where to start, which is why we’ve put together a book: Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally – The Complete 9 Step Guide.
As the title states, it’s a step-by-step guide to lowering your blood pressure naturally, through making simple changes in what you eat and drink, how you go about your day, and how you unwind and relax (and if you don’t, then it’s time to start).
You can do each step at your own pace – one a week, one a month – or use it as a handbook to dip in and out of – whatever suits.
It’s a fully up-to-date and thoroughly comprehensive guide, giving you everything you need to know about reducing blood pressure without drugs in a straightforward easy-to-follow format.
Click on the picture for more details, and you’ll also be able to download a free sample.
And good luck with it all!
Post by Alison.
Image credits: Schadenfreude Iola, Food Thinkers, UGA College of Ag & Environment all via Flickr.com