Growing up my parents belonged to a fruit and vegetable co-op with a bunch of other young families in our neighborhood. Which meant my siblings and I were introduced to all kinds of produce starting when we were just tots.
While my friends were turning their noses up at the mushy canned veggies their parents were trying to get them to eat we were learning how delicious fresh asparagus, artichokes, Brussel sprouts and beets were.
I believe it’s why we all still love vegetables today. In fact, I think if more folks were to experience a perfectly sweet caramelized Brussels sprout or a tender melt in your mouth roasted beet as children there would be a lot more vegetable loving adults out there.
And, of course, they’d be reaping their many health rewards.
Beet juice delivers bunches of health benefits
I’ve written to you before about beets, the hidden in plain sight superfood. This unassuming root vegetable is packing some serious health benefits underneath that dusky red exterior.
You see beets, and beet juice, are rich in nitrates. When converted into nitric oxide by your body those nitrates naturally relax muscle tissues, expanding your blood vessels. And, as you can probably imagine, the increased circulation leads to all kinds of benefits.
Research has found beets can help you control your blood pressure, improve cognitive function and even add a spark to your love life. And it all comes down to the vegetable’s incredible ability to boost blood flow.
But the beet benefits don’t end there.
It turns out that same improvement in circulation could also help you keep your blood sugar under control and improve insulin resistance if you happen to be overweight.
Better blood flow and blood sugar with beets
Better blood flow means your body can distribute the sugar you eat to your cells more efficiently. And this allows them to convert the sugar into energy more efficiently too.
That means your body may not need to pump out quite as much insulin to get the job done. Plus beets and beet juice are bursting with alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) which experts say helps your body use the insulin it does make more effectively.
As a result, when you regularly eat beets and drink beet juice your chance of experiencing harmful blood sugar spikes may drop. And your risk for type 2 diabetes could take a nosedive too.
And now researchers say they’ve proved it.
Beet juice improved insulin sensitivity
For the new study, published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, researchers recruited 12 normal weight and 10 obese (but non diabetic) folks.1 The volunteers were told to avoid nitrate rich foods, such as greens and beets, the day before the lab tests.
On the day of the experiments, the volunteers drank a 17 ounce glass of beet juice with 25 grams of glucose. And incredibly, insulin sensitivity in the overweight folks was significantly improved.
The researchers checked blood sugar levels at 60 and 90 minutes. The obese volunteer’s blood sugar levels didn’t rise as much as they did in a similar session. (In that one, the researchers had purposely suppressed nitrous oxide (NO) production.)
In other words, if you’re overweight regularly drinking beet juice could help reduce your chances of developing type-2 diabetes. But to get the full benefits you need to make sure you’re not accidentally suppressing your own NO production. It’s easy to do by making this one surprising mistake.
To get the most beet juice benefits ditch the mouthwash
If you’re a regular Healthier Talk readers you may have already guessed, the mistake is using antibacterial mouthwash.
As I explained back in January, antibacterial mouthwash kills off the good bacteria, or probiotics, in your mouth. These good bugs convert the nitrates in the beets into the nitrites that produce the blood-flow boosting nitric oxide.
In fact, the researchers used mouthwash in the new study to suppress NO production in the volunteers.
If you have a juicer, you can make your own fresh beet juice at home. Since pure beet juice can be a bit bitter for some folks, feel free to combine it with another veggie such as carrots.
You can also buy beet juice online and off the shelf in many grocery stores.
1. “Concurrent Beet Juice and Carbohydrate Ingestion: Influence on Glucose Tolerance in Obese and Nonobese Adults,” Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 6436783, 7 pages