Fresh beets on farm table.

The Health Benefits of Adding Beets to Your Diet

July 3, 2024

You may have seen ads promoting beets for heart health. These vibrantly colored plants with a delicious taste are indeed full of nutrients … but for some, the thought of cooking them can be intimidating.

However, Elsa-Grace Giardina, MD, director of the Women's Heart Center in Columbia's Division of Cardiology, says you should consider adding beets to your regular rotation of veggies.

"Beets are tasty and sweet, plus they offer many health benefits," says Dr. Giardina. "A half-cup of cooked beets contains only about 40 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, and, importantly, is low in sodium."

We asked Dr. Giardina to give us the low down on beets.

Health Benefits of Beets

Eating beets provides several nutritional benefits. Also known as beetroot or Beta vulgaris (in Latin; look that up, and you'll see Swiss chard is part of the family!), this nutrient-dense root vegetable contains healthy minerals and vitamins, including manganese, potassium, iron, folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. Beets are also low in calories, cholesterol, and sodium.

Three Reasons Beets Are Good for Heart Health

Beets are a heart-healthy food in several important ways, including:

  • Blood pressure: Some small research studies show a relationship between eating beets and heart health (however, we have yet to see a large, randomized clinical trial make the same connection). These small studies suggest that beets decrease blood pressure; we think this is because high concentrations of nitrates in beets eventually turn into nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels, reducing blood pressure.
  • Fiber: Beets are an excellent source of fiber: one cup of beets contains about 3.4 grams. This high fiber content contributes to a sense of fullness, which makes it easier to control appetite (by not overeating) and weight. Fiber also helps lower cholesterol and promotes regular bowel movements.
  • Anti-Inflammation: Beets contain betalains, natural pigments that give them their vibrant color. These pigments also act as antioxidants, protecting cells from oxidative stress and inflammation. Betalains and beetroot extracts have emerged as potential anti-inflammatory agents but have not been evaluated in large human studies.

Things to Keep in Mind When Eating Beets

Incorporating beets into your diet comes with a few things to remember: Red beets (but not yellow or golden beets) can turn urine red. This is called beeturia, and it's completely safe.

It's also important to enjoy beets in moderation. Eating more than one cup of beets a day may contribute to gout (a type of arthritis) and kidney stones. In addition, one cup of beets contains 9g of sugar. Ask your doctor if you need to be concerned about your blood glucose levels.

Beet Supplements vs. Real Beets

Unfortunately, taking beet supplements is not as good as eating real beets. Supplements sold in the United States are not tested or approved by the FDA, so their quality varies. You can't guarantee you're getting the same nutrients.

There may be a good beet supplement on the market; for example, over-the-counter (non-prescription) beetroot formulations are available as capsules, chews, concentrates, juices, powders, and even gummies. Still, the content of vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients varies.

Despite marketing claims, supplements, unlike medicines, do not adhere to strict guidelines. It is best to eat the whole vegetable for certain health benefits.

So next time you're in the supermarket, open your favorite recipe app and search for beets. Your body—including your tastebuds—will thank you.


Elsa-Grace Giardina, MD, is the director of the Women's Heart Center in Columbia's Division of Cardiology and professor of medicine at Columbia.