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.
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There are multiple cancer-fighting benefits of beets. Beets contain high levels of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents that studies show may help reduce the risk of some cancers. (Here are some other antioxidant-rich foods you should be eating.) 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 that adding a quarter cup of beets to your daily diet could cut your kidney cancer risk. Here are some more foods that can help fight different types of cancer.

Health Benefit: Beets lower risk of heart disease
Beets are a good source of folate and betaine. (Check out these other foods that are high in folate.) These nutrients act together to help lower blood levels of homocysteine, which can increase your risk of heart disease by causing artery-damaging inflammation.

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 some other foods that are good for your eyes—and no, carrots aren't one of them! (Speaking of eyes, did you know there's no such thing as blue eyes? Here's why.)

Health Benefit: Beets boost endurance
British researchers conducted studies that found athletes who drank beet juice mixed with a little apple juice before working out reported better endurance and a lower resting blood pressure than those who did not. (Here are 7 other foods that lower blood pressure.) The performance boost is thought to be from the nitrates found in the root. And these aren't the only energy-boosting benefits of beets. Additional research suggests that a beet-apple juice mixture could make certain activities (like walking) less exhausting for seniors.

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. (Here are 30 facts about your brain that will blow your mind.)

Health Benefit: Beets combat constipation
Fiber helps keep your digestive system running smoothly, and one of the many benefits of beets is that they are chock full of it. Here are some ways to get more fiber into your diet without even trying, and here are some other superfoods you should definitely add to your diet this fall.

Health Risk: Beets contribute to kidney stones
Despite all these benefits of beets, 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. (Here are some warning signs of kidney stones.)

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. Make sure you avoid these eight foods if you have arthritis.

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. (Here are some things your urine reveals about your health—besides the fact you've been eating beets.)

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