By Pina LoGiudice ND, LAc and Peter Bongiorno ND, LAc Co-Medical Directors of Inner Source Health in New York
Naturopathic medicine is showing wonderful benefits to help protect the heart. A new Canadian study suggests that the naturopathic approach will decrease cardiovascular risk and lower the incidence of metabolic syndrome, a condition which includes high blood sugar, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
One tenet of naturopathic care is to work with a patient’s food intake, and one food that has impressive research and clinical use for healthy blood pressure is beetroot juice.
Benefits of Beetroot Juice
Known for decades as a liver-protective food, beets may not be the newest kid on the superfood block, but mounting research is showing why you should take another good look at this root vegetable in juiced form.
Many of our patients have mentioned that juicing beets will give them more energy for their day. Research is showing that this may be due to the ability of components in the juice to improve blood flow. Beetroot juice has been shown to help the body respond better to exercise, by balancing oxygen use and increasing stamina.
Beetroot juice is one of the richest dietary sources of antioxidants and naturally occurring nitrates. Nitrates are compounds which improve blood flow throughout the body – including the brain, heart, and muscles. These natural nitrates increase a molecule in the blood vessels called nitric oxide, which helps open up the vessels and allows more oxygen flow as well as lower blood pressure.
Beetroot juice may also be an important ally to lower blood pressure. Whether the yellow or red kind of beets, the juice provides excellent blood pressure-lowering ability. Meta-analysis (a quality study that reviewed many past studies) of 254 people between 2006 and 2012 showed clear reductions in blood pressure, with the systolic blood pressure (the number on top) showing the best reduction.
For Blood Pressure, Is It Better to Eat Beets or Drink the Juice?
In many cases, eating the whole food is the best way to get all the nutrients, fiber and healthy effect. But, in this particular case for blood pressure lowering, you are actually better off drinking the juiced beet root to get the maximum benefit. When you cook the beet or ferment a beet (like we find in a pickled beet), the amount of healthful nutrients for blood pressure benefits will decrease. By juicing, you are going to get 100% of the phytonutrients (plant chemicals) that help your blood pressure decrease.
How Much Juice Should I Take?
One to two cups of beetroot juice a day have been shown to have a significant effect for lowering blood pressure. Many doctors have been quite surprised by how little was needed to see a benefit for people with high blood pressure. You can juice the beets on your own, which is freshest and cost efficient, or you can spend about $7 for a prepared bottle at the health food store. Because beets are a potent detoxifier, some patients feel best when starting with a lower dose (like a quarter cup) and increase the amount over time.
Please note it is important to not change any prescription blood pressure medication without speaking to your prescribing doctor. Please let your doctor know you are using natural means to lower your blood pressure, which may result in requiring less medication.
Are There Any Side Effects to Drinking Beet Juice?
The dark carotenes of beet juice may give your urine and bowel movements a red color. This color change is harmless. Since beets are high in oxalates, people who tend to make oxalate kidney stones may want to avoid beet juice.
Aren’t Nitrates Unhealthy Preservatives Found in Hot Dogs and Bacon?
Cured foods like hot dogs and bacon are known to be high in nitrites, which are known cancer-causing compounds. Beets, spinach and radishes all have naturally occurring nitrates, which will convert to nitrites during digestion in your body. These naturally occurring versions are not harmful to the body and are very safe when they are eaten with the wonderful natural antioxidants that beets and radishes also provide. The more dangerous nitrites that are added to hot dogs, bacon and cured meats are really the ones to worry about and should be minimized.
Treating blood pressure encompasses working on ways to reduce stress, eating healthy food choices, exercising, and getting intake of the proper nutrients.
Beetroot juice can be an excellent addition to a natural regimen designed to help bring blood pressure under control while increasing a person’s stamina and energy.