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9 Health Benefits of Beets (and Risks) You Never Knew About

Beets are packed with healthy nutrients, like five essential vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium, and protein. But they can also have some surprising side effects.

Young woman's hands holds spoon and bowl of traditional Russian beetroot soup - borscht. Raw and vegan with tomatoes, avocado, walnuts, parsley, garlic, onion. Vegetarian healthy food. Top viewViktor Kochetkov/Shutterstock

Health Benefit: Beets fight cancer

There are multiple cancer-fighting health benefits of beets. Beets contain high levels of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents that studies show may help reduce the risk of some cancers. They get their striking red color from betacyanin, a plant pigment that some preliminary research indicates might help defend cells against harmful carcinogens. Also, high levels of a unique fiber found in beets may be linked to a lower colon cancer risk. Dr. Mehmet Oz has said on sharecare.com that adding a quarter cup of beets to your daily diet could cut your kidney cancer risk.

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Health Benefit: Beets lower risk of heart disease

Beets are a good source of folate and betaine. These nutrients act together to help lower blood levels of homocysteine, which can increase your risk of heart disease by causing artery-damaging inflammation.

Pile of homegrown organic young beets with green leaves on dark stone table. Fresh harvested beetroots on black concrete background. Top view.Nelli Syrotynska/Shutterstock

Health Benefit: Beets boost eye health

Beet greens are a good source of lutein, an antioxidant that helps protect the eyes from age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. They also contain a wide variety of phytochemicals that may help improve the health of your eyes and nerve tissues. Here are more antioxidant-rich foods you should be eating.

glasses with beet juice fresh. detox and dietAnna Lohachova/Shutterstock

Health Benefit: Beets boost endurance

Nutrients journal assessed multiple different studies related to beet juice and endurance. The results concluded that drinking beetroot juice improves cardiorespiratory endurance and increases overall efficiency. They also hypothesized that it can lessen the effects of hypoxia in the blood, which can negatively impact athletic performance. The performance boost is thought to be from the nitrates found in the root. And these aren’t the only energy-boosting health benefits of beets. Additional research suggests that a beet-apple juice mixture could make certain activities (like walking) less exhausting for seniors.

9 Health Benefits of Beets (and Risks) You Never Knew AboutMagdanatka/Shutterstock

Health Benefit: Beets reduce dementia risk

Beets produce nitric acid, which helps increase blood flow throughout your body, including to your brain. MRIs done on older adults showed that after eating a high-nitrate diet that included beet juice, the subjects had more blood flow to the white matter of their frontal lobes.

beetsAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Health Benefit: Beets combat constipation

Fiber helps keep your digestive system running smoothly, and one of the many health benefits of beets is that they are chock full of it. Check out these other vegetables you really should stop avoiding.

Beetroots on white painted rustic wooden table with slate background.homydesign/Shutterstock

Health Risk: Beets contribute to kidney stones

Despite all these health benefits of beets, there are also some risks. For starters, you might want to eat beet greens with caution if you’re prone to kidney stones. They’re high in oxalates, which can form small crystals and contribute to the development of kidney stones. Make sure you read up on other “healthy” foods that can actually harm you.

Woman holding glass with fresh beet juice and half of vegetable on marble table, top viewNew Africa/Shutterstock

Health Risk: Beets could cause gout

Beets are high in oxalate, which can contribute to gout, a type of arthritis that develops when too much uric acid builds up in the body.

beetsAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Health Risk: Beets discolor your stool

You might find beets help you go to the bathroom, but don’t be alarmed if your urine or stool is pink or red. It’s not blood and is actually harmless. Now that you know all of the beets health benefits, check out the 50 healthiest foods you can buy at the supermarket.

Originally Published on Reader's Digest

Alyssa Jung
Alyssa Jung is a writer and editor with extensive experience creating health and wellness content that resonates with readers. She freelanced for local publications in Upstate New York and spent three years as a newspaper reporter before moving to New York City to pursue a career in magazines. She is currently Senior Associate Editor at Prevention magazine and a contributor to Prevention.com. Previously she worked at Reader's Digest as an editor, writer, and health fact checker.