Beetroot juice is a powerful medicine when it comes to lowering a high blood pressure. Some of its effects relate to the minerals it contains, such as potassium and magnesium, but its true pharmacological action is due to a high content of nitrates.
When you drink beetroot juice, these nitrates are rapidly converted into nitrites by bacteria (Veillonella and Actinomyces species) that live on the surface of your tongue, and which are also present in saliva. The 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 small muscle fibres in your blood vessel linings. This causes the 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 beetroot juice for lowering blood pressure?
Research involving 68 people with hypertension showed that drinking a glass (250ml) of beetroot juice every day can lower 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 compared with the effects of drinking a placebo beetroot juice from which the nitrates were extracted. This showed that the blood pressure lowering effect was due to the nitrates rather than other beetroot components. In those drinking the whole beetroot juice, the ability of blood vessels to dilate (known as endothelial function) improved by around 20% and arterial stiffness was significantly reduced – in other words, drinking beetroot juice can improve the elasticity of your arterial walls.
The benefits were seen within one hour, reached their maximum effect after four hours, and were still evident 24 hours later. Theses results mean that beetroot juice is at least as effective as many prescribed antihypertensive medications.
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 beetroot 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 juice around your mouth, or chew beetroot thoroughly before swallowing, to maximise the conversion of nitrates to the beneficial nitrites.
Does it make your urine red?
Beetroot gets its rich, red colour from an antioxidant pigment, called betanin. This 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 it is now thought to help protect circulating cholesterol from oxidation, and to protect genetic material from 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.
Beet IT Organic Concentrated Beetroot Shots provide 0.3g (300mg) dietary nitrate per 70ml shot, which is equivalent to drinking 400ml Beetroot Juice. This is the beetroot juice product used in most of the worldwide medical research.
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Beet It Organic Beetroot Juice is free from additives and preservatives and supplies natural dietary nitrate at the normal concentrations found in beetroot juice.
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BeetActive beetroot concentrate provides 229mg dietary nitrates per 30 ml. Add to a glass of water, apple juice or smoothie, or even drizzle it over salads. Available in 210ml (7 servings) and 500ml ( 16 servings) sizes.
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|Nature’s Aid Organic Beetroot Capsules supply 462mg concentrated beetroot extracts equivalent to 4620mg dried beetroot.
The recommended dose is 2 capsules per day, with food.
These supplements are made to a pharmaceutical standard known as GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) to ensure that each capsule supplies a consistent dose.
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Solgar’s Beetroot Extract supplies an impressive 500mg concentrated extract. Solgar supplements are also made to GMP standard.
The suggested dose is one capsule, three times a day.
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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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