Beetroot juice is a very tasty drink that can be found in all supermarkets nowadays. In fact, it is considered a healthy drink, also useful for athletes to increase fatigue resistance and performance. Is it just a belief or is there a scientific basis? Today we can answer this question thanks to a recent review published in the journal Food Science and Nutrition by a Dutch team (Zamani et al, Food Science and Nutrition, 2020). We will see that beet juice protects the heart, improves blood flow but must be taken without excess, let's try to understand better.
Beetroot juice contains high concentrations of nitrates, which then, after ingestion, are converted in the body into nitric oxide, which is a vasodilator. In fact, drinking beetroot juice led to a reduction in systolic blood pressure already 3 hours after taking it. Not only that, the beetroot juice has been shown to counteract platelet aggregation and therefore the formation of blood clots, it allows to increase blood flow and improves the elasticity of the endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels. Therefore, the beetroot juice has a clear cardioprotective action and in addition it can be considered useful to strengthen the body before or after intense physical activity. And that's not all, the nitrates contained in the beetroot juice also protect the health of the oral cavity, showing to counteract the formation of caries by acting directly on the composition and pH of the saliva, and the cognitive function by increasing the blood flow to the brain.
However, as mentioned at the beginning, we must not exaggerate. In fact, even if it is beneficial, beetroot juice in high quantities could, in theory, cause damage. A high amount of nitrates, higher than the recommended threshold, could turn into nitrosamines in the stomach which are carcinogenic compounds. There are no studies, at present, that investigate this aspect but the authors of the study emphasize it and state that further research will have to be carried out to better understand what may happen. Therefore, the advice is not to overdo the quantity but to see the beetroot juice as an additional ally for health within a varied diet, without excess.