Chances are you’ve eaten a beet, but have you ever enjoyed a fresh glass of beetroot juice? Researchers recently discovered that beetroot juice helps to open up blood vessels leading to the heart and lower blood pressure, but new research shows it could also improve brain health.
Researchers gave fourteen seniors a breakfast of high nitrate foods along with beetroot juice, while another group ate a low nitrate breakfast for two days. To see how the nitrates and beetroot juice affected the brains of these individuals, they did an MRI scan of their heads and repeated the experiment by switching the type of meal each group ate. What did the head MRI show? The group who ate the breakfast high in nitrates that included beetroot juice had greater blood flow to the frontal portions of their brain. This means more oxygen and nutrients were reaching the hard-working brain cells.
What’s the big deal about nitrates and beetroot juice? Nitrates are chemicals that open up blood vessels. In fact, they’re used to treat chest pain in people who have heart disease because of their blood vessel widening effect. Not only do nitrates improve the function of blood vessels, they reduce clot formation, which could lead to a heart attack. Beetroot juice is a rich source of blood vessel expanding nitrates, which increase blood flow to the heart – and to the brain.
The benefits of beetroot juice are only beginning to be studied. In addition to their effects on the heart and brain, one study showed that bikers who drank beetroot juice before cycling pedaled longer before becoming tired than those who drank a placebo. This isn’t surprising since nitrates increase blood flow to the muscles too, which increases stamina and endurance. Not a bad thing if you’re a cyclist.
A drawback to using beetroot juice to improve brain health is cost. Beetroot juice isn’t cheap. On the other hand, if you have a juicer, you can make beetroot juice at home for a fraction of the price. Since the juice can be bitter, mix it with a fruit juice to make it more flavorful. Don’t underestimate the power of this juice to help your brain and heart.