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June 1, 2013 at 1:19 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

A Nutritious Way to "Beet" Blood Pressure

By Jessica Corwin MPH RDN More Blogs by This Author

As I was scrolling through a recent newsletter from the American Heart Association, an interesting study caught my eye. Research published in their journal, Hypertension, found that consuming beetroot juice can actually lower blood pressure. Sounds far better than popping a pill, surely less expensive too.

While the data is in the EARLY stages and does not yet provide enough evidence to claim that beets are the cure for our nation's ever increasing blood pressure, the data is intriguing. 

This particular study followed 14 adults with previously existing hypertension (i.e. high blood pressure) and was able to demonstrate a reduction of 10 mm Hg upon consuming an 8 fluid ounce glass of  100% beetroot juice daily. Another study, albeit a quite small one with only 17 adults, published by the New England Journal of Medicine, also demonstrated a connection between veggies similar to beets and blood pressure reduction. The common link? Nitrates seem to be the power player in this case. 

Nitrates? Yes, the same compounds found in processed or cured meats thanks to sodium nitrite. Oddly enough, this is the primary food source that comes to mind, though from what I have read, a mere 5% of our dietary nitrates actually come from cured meats, whereas a massive 80% is derived from the colorful produce that is hopefully found in our diets. Delicious sources of nitrates include beet root, dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, collards), celery, celeriac, fennel, kohlrabi, endive, leeks, and parsley. Clearly, our green veggies are packed with this antioxidant - perhaps one of the countless reasons the American Heart Association recommends that we consume at least nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day (how many are you getting?). 

To boost the nitrates in your own diet, why not start with some dark leafy greens or beets? I have been hooked on this fabulous Kale, Strawberry, and Avocado Salad with a Lemon Poppyseed Dressing as a means of using up those fresh summer strawberries bursting with flavor. If you have an overly ripe banana laying around, I urge you to dice it up and add it to the mix for the perfect pop of sweetness to balance out the kale. YUM! 

Perhaps as a tasty side dish for dinner this evening, you could dine on beets. Whether roasted in the oven or on the grill within a foil pack (simply add a splash of EVOO and fresh ground pepper), blended into a pink hummus, or cooked into this beautiful red risotto, I assure you it will be a delight. 

Still not convinced to eat these unique veggies? There is also evidence published in the Journal of Free Radical Biology and Medicine that suggests that nitrates may help boost the effectiveness of our mitochondria, spurring our energy production and helping to prolong our endurance for that long run (or long day!). 

Cheers to good health and good food! Please let me know how you incorporate these tasty foods into your own diet, I'm always looking for new recipes - you should see my Pinterest board of those that I WANT to try. Wow! Can you say addiction? :)

SLN Recipe: Orange-Soy Marinated Beet Noodles

"Sweet, earthy beets are nutrient-packed and probably one of the world's most beautiful foods, so I think it's a real shame more people aren't cooking with them! This recipe is designed to convert beet skeptics into beet lovers. What probably weirds some people out, is the fact that though beets are sweet, there is no tang to them, and although they are earthy, there's no salt. The orange soy marinade helps fill in those flavor gaps and the thin noodle-cut allows for maximum marinade absorption. Go figure the funky-food-loving Chinese would have the perfect flavor match for beets."

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