Beets are versatile vegetables that add a pop of color and flavor to salads and other dishes. It’s possible you’ve been intimidated by the idea of regularly incorporating them into your diet because of their earthy flavor and the potential mess their dark, red juices can produce. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to enjoy beets, whether that’s raw, roasted, in juice form, or by enjoying the beetroot.

Here, a dietitian breaks down beets’ health benefits and the range of ways to enjoy them.

Health benefits of beets

According to Natalie Allen, RD, a registered dietitian and clinical assistant professor of biomedical sciences at Missouri State University, beets are low in calories and high in nutrients, making them an excellent item to add to your diet. These nutrients include vitamin C, folate, potassium, manganese, copper and fiber. 

“One of the most impressive health benefits of beets is the effect they can have in lowering blood pressure,” Allen says. “Beets’ rich amounts of phytonutrients and antioxidants also help to fight inflammation in the body, and beets also promote a healthy gut, boost your stamina/energy and detoxify the liver.”

How many beets do you need to eat to reap these benefits? 

The good news is you don’t need to eat a ridiculous amount of beets to take advantage of their health benefits. According to Allen, just one cup of beets is most beneficial for reaping their aforementioned nutrients. 

“If that amount is daunting, start small by adding beets to salads and build up to eating roasted beets as a side dish,” she says.

What are some benefits of beet juice? 

Beet juice has become popular and for good reason, Allen says. Just like the vegetable in its natural form, beet juice is rich in antioxidants, making it a great natural detoxifier. It’s worth knowing that drinking beet juice may turn your urine pale pink or red, though it’s nothing to be alarmed about, Allen says.

“By drinking this juice, you’ll be able to reduce your cholesterol, prevent and lower high blood pressure, maintain a healthy liver, support brain health, and improve the digestive system,” she explains. “Studies have also shown that drinking beet juice can result in increased stamina during exercise.” 

That last claim is actually well-known amongst competitive runners, with research showing that beetroot supplementation for 15 days resulted in a significant increase in peak power and VO2max, i.e. the maximum rate of oxygen consumption measured during incremental exercise with increasing intensity. In fact, my pre-race breakfast of choice before this year’s Houston Marathon was Picky Bars Can’t Beet Chocolate Performance Oatmeal, which not only sufficiently fueled my race but helped me get a Boston Marathon qualifier and a 15-minute personal best.

Health benefits of beetroot

The beetroot is the taproot portion of the beet plant, so the benefits of eating it are similar to eating beets and drinking beet juice, Allen says. 

“The beetroot is also high in nitrates, which is especially good for endurance athletes,” she explains.” It helps increase blood flow and improve lung function, thus improving sports performance.”

If you’re seeking it out for this purpose, you can dissolve beetroot powder such as BeetElite in water to drink before a workout, which I’ve found to be more palatable than straight beet juice.

How to consume beetroot