Many people make claims of the health benefits of beet juice. They may be correct.Beets are thought to promote longevity. Indeed, it is believed that Russian may owe their longer and healthy lives due to using beets in their traditional soups.
The pigment that gives beets their bright purple colour, called betacyanin, is suspected to be able to fight off cancer cells and several animal studies seem to prove this. Other more recent animal studies seem to show that a diet high in beet fiber helps the liver produce antioxidants that defend against damage by free radicals.
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One study done in patients with stomach cancer looked at how beet juice can protect against the effects of cancer causing chemicals, called nitrates, routinely used in preserving foods. Beet seems to be able to prevent cells from becoming cancerous in animal studies. Some experts also believe that it may help prevent colon cancer.
There’s more to beet than just its antioxidant properties. One animal study showed that the beet fiber was able to lower cholesterol by 30% and this may contribute to reducing the risk of heart disease in humans.
Beet is rich in a substance called betaine which is shown in clinical studies to reduce the chemical signs of inflammation (for example, C-reactive protein, interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor alpha). These chemical markers of inflammation are suspected to be responsible for health problems such as type-2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis.
What foods are rich sources of betaine? Beet, beet juice and spinach are good sources. Otherwise, another good option is to take choline rich foods such as egg yolk, soybeans and whole wheat products.
Why choline? Choline is converted into betaine by our body. Experts have established a Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of choline at 550 mg for men and 425 mg for women. (Betaine does not have a RDI because it is not essential as our body can make it from choline.)
Beets are also a source of oxalates, a chemical found in plants, animals and humans. Oxalates can concentrate in the kidney leading to stone formations in certain high risk individuals. For those with are at risk of developing kidney stones or have gallbladder problems, experts suggest eating less oxalate-containing foods such as beet or beet juice.
Beet and beet juice are not reported to have any significant side effects. In theory, eating large quantities of beet or drink beet juice may
cause low calcium in the blood (hypocalcemia) and possible kidney problems (in those at risk) because of the oxalates.
However, most studies do not show that it would reduce calcium absorption enough to be of any significance.
Eating beet or drinking beet juice may cause your urine or stool to turn red or pink in colour. This is a harmless side effect and nothing to be alarmed about.