Beets are an unsung hero of nutrition. Belonging to the root vegetable family, beets (or beetroots, as they’re often known) are a dense source of vital vitamins, minerals and inorganic nitrates. Strange, then, that you mightn’t have heard too much about them.
With this article, we aim to rectify that. Because beets – and fermented beets in particular – deserve major credit for the health benefits they can confer. Beets have been variously shown to improve athletic performance, protect heart and gut health, ease digestion and protect the skin from signs of premature ageing. Adding them to your diet is one of the best things you can do.
So what are you waiting for? Read on to find out what fermented beets are good for, and why incorporating them into your nutrition plan is likely to pay rich dividends.
What are Fermented Beets?
Beets are a treasured low-calorie vegetable, rich in essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other beneficial phytonutrients.
Beets can be consumed in smoothies and juices, peeled and eaten raw, sautéed with olive oil, roasted with goat cheese, deployed in soups and salads, even included in desserts. Intrigued? Have some recipe inspiration.
While beets are great, cultured (fermented) beets are even better. Why? Because fermentation potentiates the impact of nutrients.
Traditionally fermenting beets extends their lifespan, reduces sugar content (especially advantageous since beets have a comparatively high sugar content), drastically aids vitamin and enzyme production and increases friendly gut microbes. They are also far more bioavailable for our body.
What’s more, fermentation adds an extra dimension to the sweet, mellow and earthy flavour of beets.
To find out more, check out our article 10 Benefits of Fermented Foods.
Many people new to this topic often wonder if beets are classed as low FODMAP. The answer is yes – in moderation. While a full serving of fresh beetroot (approx four slices) is regarded as high FODMAP due to the oglio-fructan, two slices would be classed as low FODMAP.
There are a number of ways to culture raw beets, with some using specialised equipment and others little more than glass jars or air-locked fermentation dishes. A quick Google search will uncover no end of inspiration, as well as recipes.
What Do Fermented Beets Do for the Body?
Now that you know what fermented beets are, let’s take a closer look at what are fermented beets good for; that way, you can better comprehend what fermented beets do for the human body.
Below, we cover some of the primary, evidence-based health benefits of consuming beets.
Fermented Beets for Digestion and Diabetes
We all know dietary fibre is essential for proper digestion, and beets contain plenty of it. As such, they’re a great food for keeping the bowel moving and preventing constipation.
Beets also contain folate, which among other things helps to repair tissues in the digestive tract.
As for blood-sugar control and diabetes, beets have proven themselves to be incredibly effective in a number of trials.
For example, one 2014 study showed that drinking half a cup of beetroot juice resulted in a notable suppression of post-meal glucose levels.
Another study, published three years later, showed that nitrate-rich beet juice when drunk with carbs could lower insulin resistance in obese participants.
While a separate 2012 review indicated that alpha-lipoic acid, a major antioxidant found in beets, could reduce nerve damage common to diabetics.
At the moment it’s fair to say that more studies are needed to properly assess the merits of beets, at least where diabetes is concerned. But the evidence thus far is promising.
Fermented Beets for Gut Health
What about fermented beets and probiotics? When we hear the words “fermented” or “cultured”, our minds tend to jump to probiotics after all. That’s natural, since many fermented foods are indeed probiotic, helping to introduce friendly microbes to the digestive tract and positively influence the microbiome. Some examples of fermented food include sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and natural yogurt.
In a 2015 animal study, fermented beet juice was shown to improve gut microbiota and metabolic activity and also enhance hydrophilic antioxidants.
The study authors also alluded to fermented beet juice’s “high anti-carcinogenic and anti-mutagenic potentials”.
Beets’ gut-friendly profile has led to the emergence of such products as beet gut shots, which promise to keep your gut well-balanced. Beets (as well as beet juice) is also regularly included in lists of gut-friendly foods.
Fermented Beets for Heart Health
“Can fermented beets raise blood pressure?” is an oft-asked question. In actual fact, the opposite is true: beets have the ability to lower blood pressure in a relatively short timespan, thanks to their natural nitrates.
When we eat beets, our body converts nitrates to nitric oxide, which serves to dilate blood vessels, thereby reducing blood pressure and improving blood flow.
Indeed, a 2017 meta-analysis which assessed data from 40 individual studies found a “significant effect” of beet juice on systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP).
Be aware, though, that boiling beets reduces their nitrate content: steaming, roasting or juicing is the way to go. Mouthwashes and chewing gum also prevent nitric oxide conversion from occurring.
As well as nitrates, which are regularly used to treat angina, beets contain betaine – which helps to reduce inflammation, protect against environmental stress and assists the liver by stimulating the flow of bile to break down fat.
Fermented Beets for Boosting Energy Levels
Do fermented beets give you energy? Yes, they do. Or at any rate, there are studies showing just that.
For example, a systemic review from 2017 found that drinking beet juice improved “cardiorespiratory endurance” in athletes by improving their maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 max) and also their anaerobic threshold.
This wasn’t from a single study either: 23 separate trials were investigated to reach this conclusion.
The take-home? Beet juice could help you work out for longer and increase efficiency. Ditch the stimulant-laden preworkouts and drink a glass of beet juice instead.
More Health Benefits of Beets
These are not the only benefits of consuming beets, of course. Below, you’ll find a snapshot of other benefits.
• Multiple studies on rats indicate that beets “reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in the liver”, while also increasing production of natural detoxification enzymes.
• Drinking beet juice pre-workout boosts brain performance.
• Beets increase blood flow to the brain in older people and may hamper the progression of dementia.
• Beetroot extract “exhibited a dose-dependent cytotoxic effect” in prostate and breast cancer cells.
Introducing Organic Fermented Beets
Fermenting your own beets is a great idea, but although they don’t require a starter culture to ferment, the process can take several weeks. If you’re after a simpler option, our fermented beet powder supplement might be of interest.
Organic Fermented Beets is a fermented beet root powder supplement that has been specially formulated to maximise nitric oxide production.
Part of Ground-Based Nutrition’s Sport Series, the superfood powder combines organically fermented beets with Careflow™ mango fruit powder, a patented ingredient shown to mimic calorie restriction and support microcirculation.
Organic Fermented Beets contains an appreciable amount of beets per serving – 5g to be specific. What’s more, it comes without added sugars, fillers or artificial ingredients. Mix with water and drink half an hour before exercise. It can also be consumed as a daily supplement for general wellbeing.
Hopefully you are in no doubt about the impressive nutritious profile of beets. Is it any wonder they remain a staple of traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine? In actual fact, red beets have been cultivated since around 300 BC!
We firmly believe that fermented beets are the way to go. Whether you’re drinking fermented beet juice or eating beets you’ve fermented yourself, you’re sure to benefit.
Remember, there are lots of recipes out there so don’t be scared to experiment!
Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.
Beet juice could help you work out for longer and increase efficiency.