Beetroot juice, or beet juice, is one of the most powerful natural remedies for high blood pressure. In fact, beet juice is more effective at lowering a high blood pressure than many prescribed medical treatments. Eating beetroot or beets themselves can also lower blood pressure.
Beet juice for high blood pressure
Beets and beet juice contain minerals such as potassium and magnesium which have blood pressure lowering effects, but the main pharmacological action that accounts for the ability of beets and beet juice to lower blood pressure is their high content of nitrates.
When you drink beet juice, or eat beets, these nitrates are rapidly converted into nitrites by bacteria (Veillonella and Actinomyces species) that live on the surface of your tongue, and are also present in saliva. The released nitrites are absorbed into your circulation, where they are used to make a gas called nitric oxide (NO).
NO is a cell-signalling molecule which has a powerful relaxing effect on blood vessel walls. This causes blood vessels to dilate so that your blood pressure falls. This powerful action is also how drugs such as glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) and sildenafil (Viagra) work – and why GTN is notorious for causing a headache.
The discovery of how nitric oxide dilates blood vessels was so important for cardiovascular health that the researchers were awarded a Nobel Prize in 1998.
How effective is beet juice for lowering blood pressure?
Research involving 68 people with high blood pressure showed that drinking a glass (250ml) of beet or beetroot juice every day lowered a high blood pressure by, on average, 7.7/5.2 mmHg, within four weeks. These reductions were recorded using 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, and were compared with the effects of drinking a placebo beetroot juice from which the nitrates were removed. This proved that the blood pressure lowering effect was due to the nitrates rather than other beetroot components.
In those drinking the whole beet juice, the ability of blood vessels to dilate (known as endothelial function) improved by around 20% and arterial stiffness significantly reduced – in other words, drinking beet juice can improve the elasticity of arterial walls.
The benefits were seen quickly, within one hour, reached their maximum effect after four hours, and were still evident 24 hours later.
These results mean that beet juice is at least as effective as many prescribed high blood pressure medications.
Beet juice concentrate
Concentrated beetroot juice is now also available which you can dilute a small amount (eg 30ml) with water to make it easier to drink a glass a day.
While most research has involved beet juice itself, you can obtain a similar amount of nitrates from eating 100g cooked or grated raw beetroot as are found in 250ml beetroot juice.
Swill the beet juice around your mouth, or chew beetroot thoroughly before swallowing, to maximise the conversion of nitrates to the beneficial nitrites and obtain the optimal benefits for your high blood pressure.
Does beet juice make your urine red?
Beets and beet juice get their rich, red colour from an antioxidant pigment, called betanin. This pigment is water-soluble and can cause a temporary red discolouration of urine known as beeturia. This can look dramatic, but is harmless, so don’t worry if you notice this effect. In fact, betain provides additional health benefits as betanin is now thought to help protect circulating cholesterol from oxidation, and to protect genetic material from oxidative damage.
Make beetroot one of the foods you eat regularly to help lower your blood pressure, and include it as part of a DASH style blood pressure lowering diet. If you don’t like the taste of beetroot or its juice, tablets containing concentrated beetroot extracts are available so you don’t miss out on its medicinal benefits.
Beetroot supplements are also available if you don’t like the earthy taste of beet juice – I love it!
If your blood pressure is raised, self-monitoring is key to maintaining good control.
Click here for advice on choosing a blood pressure monitor to use at home.
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