7 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Eat Beets

These sweet, earthy root veggies are packed with surprising health benefits.

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You can’t beat beets! After years of being relegated to the recesses of the salad bar buffet next to the shredded cheese and buttered croutons, beets are enjoying their much-deserved place at the center stage of a healthy diet. They’re not only chock-full of essential everyday nutrients like B vitamins, iron, manganese, copper, magnesium, and potassium, these ruby gems also are a goldmine of health-boosting nutrients that you may not get anywhere else. Check out these great and surprising things that happen to your body when you eat beets.

Blood pressure improves

Beets are rich in nitrates, which the body converts to nitric oxide, a compound that relaxes and dilates blood vessels, turning them into superhighways for your nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood. That means better circulation and possibly lower blood pressure. A very small study from 2012 found that 13 men who drank just one glass of beet juice temporarily lowered their systolic blood pressure by an average of 4 to 5 points. (Note: the study was funded by a beet juice manufacturer.) Another study published in Hypertension in 2008 (which didn’t receive funding from beet-juice makers) found that those who drank the red root juice had a 10 mm Hg drop in blood pressure and less blood clotting three hours later, compared to those who drank water.

Your heart disease risk may drop

Beets also have a potentially positive impact on your blood pressure. They are rich in a plant alkaloid called betaine, as well as the B-vitamin folate, which together delivers a one-two punch for lowering blood levels of homocysteine, which in high concentrations increases your risk for artery damage and heart disease.

You may improve your stamina

When elite athletes pee in a cup for a drug test, the color might be crimson. Why? Because lots of athletes eat beets, and beets contain pigments that turn urine pink.  Athletes also know that research has suggested that nitrates boost endurance performance. In one study, cyclists who drank beet juice could pedal 15% longer in a time trial to exhaustion. It takes approximately three to five beets (depending on their size, which varies widely) to get a performance boost, says study author Andy Jones, Ph.D., dean of research in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter. “Peak nitrate levels occur two to three hours after you eat or drink them,” he says. So time your intake accordingly if you want to crush your 5K.

Your brain may work better

Nitric oxide relaxes and dilates your blood vessels, which in turn increases blood flow to the brain, resulting in better brain function. This is particularly important as we age, as research finds that our capacity to generate nitric oxide diminishes as we get older, along with our brain’s energy metabolism and neuron activity, so give your mind a boost with beets. In one small 2010 study, 14 older men and women (average age of 74) who ate a high-nitrate diet, including beet juice, for two days enjoyed more blood flow to the frontal lobe of their brains, than when they ate a low-nitrate diet. The frontal lobe is a region known to be involved with executive functioning skills, such as focus, organization, and attention to detail,

Your liver will be lighter

Your liver does the heavy work of cleaning your blood and “detoxing” your body. You can lighten its load with a daily serving of beets. Research shows that betaine, an amino acid found in beets (as well as spinach and quinoa) can help prevent and reduce the accumulation of fat in the liver. Animal studies show that rats given beet juice have higher levels of detoxifying enzymes in their bloodstream. Research on people with diabetes shows that betaine improves liver function, slightly decreases cholesterol, and reduces liver size.

You may be better at fighting chronic diseasesRelated image

Beets are also rich in betalains, a class of potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that battle free radical-and inflammation-related chronic diseases like heart disease, obesity, and possibly cancer. Research suggests that betacyanin, the pigment that gives beets its pretty purple hue may help protect against everyday carcinogens. It has also shown promise against laboratory-grown breast cancer cells and is currently being investigated as a cancer-fighter.

You become regular

“One way to beat irregularity and constipation is by eating fiber-rich foods like beets,” says Leslie Bonci, RD, a sports nutritionist at Pittsburgh-based company Active Eating Advice. One cup of beets delivers about 4 grams of dietary fiber, mainly insoluble fiber, which helps reduce the risk of constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticulitis. The betaine found in beets has also been shown to improve digestion. Just take note, your pee isn’t the only thing beets turn pink. Don’t be alarmed if you see crimson-colored stools 24 to 72 hours following a meal heavy in beets.

You can’t beat beets!

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5 Things That Might Happen to Your Body When You Give Up Dairy

Before you say goodbye to ice cream and mozzarella, here’s what you should know.

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What to know before you give up dairy

Thinking about eliminating milk, cheese, butter, and other dairy products from your diet (God help you; I could never give up cheese!)? You’re not alone. Whether or not to give up dairy, and how to do it is one of the top questions Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is often asked. One possible reason why so many people are ditching dairy? It’s gotten the A-list stamp of approval from those in the spotlight, from Jessica Biel who says she “just feels better” when she doesn’t eat dairy, gluten, or wheat to the Kardashian family where the women claimed that by going dairy-free they lost over 11 pounds in two weeks. And I have to be honest here and say, “Who Cares” but unfortunately these are some of the most “prized” role models.

Many experts stress that quitting dairy is not something to be done spontaneously or without cause. “You don’t need to eliminate an entire food group unless there’s a legitimate reason,” says Keri Gans, RDN, a nutritionist based in New York City. That said, if you do decide to give up dairy, there are five side effects you might experience.

You could miss out on some essential nutrients

Before you swap out your 1% for almond milk, it’s important to remember that dairy products can be part of a healthy diet. After all, there’s a reason why the USDA recommends adults have three cups of dairy per day; milk, cheese, and yogurt are rich sources of vitamin D, protein, and calcium, a critical nutrient for bone health. “It’s important to know how to replace them [if you give up dairy],” Sass says. If you’ve decided to eliminate dairy, work with a dietitian nutritionist (RDN) to create a diet plan that still includes plenty of these nutrients. “It’s not to say that someone who gives up dairy can’t get enough vitamin D and calcium, but it’s not as easy,” says Gans.

Dark leafy veggies, such as kale and collard greens, and fatty fish like sardines and canned salmon are good non-dairy calcium sources. Certain brands of plant-based milk and orange juice are also fortified with calcium and vitamin D, Sass notes, although “they’re low in protein so you may need to bump up your intake of foods like eggs, pulses, or salmon to maintain your total protein intake.” If you’ve eliminated dairy and are having trouble finding calcium and vitamin D alternatives that you enjoy, meet with an RDN to discuss whether or not you should start taking a supplement.

You might lose weight

Wanting to lose weight is often cited as the main motivation to cut out dairy, and Sass acknowledges that doing so may help you shed pounds. “I have had clients reduce body fat after giving up dairy,” she says. An important caveat, though: Weight loss after eliminating dairy “is often due to how they consumed it [before], how much, and in what form,” Sass explains. If pizza, mac and cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches were your go-to meals, and you replaced them with lean proteins, whole grains, and fresh produce, then yes, you’d probably see the numbers on the scale drop.

“It’s not dairy itself, it’s the way it’s being consumed,” says Gans. In fact, research suggests that full-fat dairy, in particular, may actually aid weight loss. In an extensive 2016 study in the American Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that women who consumed higher quantities of high-fat dairy products had an 8% lower risk of being overweight or obese. One possible explanation: Full-fat dairy contains more calories, which may keep you feeling satiated for longer, and less likely to reach for known weight-gain culprits like sugar and refined carbs.

You could feel less bloated

“When people inquire about giving up dairy, it’s usually because they’re feeling bloated,” says Gans, adding that the culprit is almost always lactose intolerance. People with this condition can experience bloating and gas, plus severe stomach pain, diarrhea, and cramps when they consume dairy products. The reason: Lactose intolerant folks do not produce enough lactase, an enzyme that’s important for breaking down a type of sugar called lactase found in milk products. However, “not everybody with lactose intolerance needs to 100% remove dairy from their diet,” Gans says. Cutting back on your overall intake, or consuming dairy products along with other foods (such as cereal with milk instead of ice cream by itself) may be enough to ease symptoms.

If you have a condition that damages the digestive tract, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, you may also get relief from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)–like symptoms when you cut back on dairy.

Your skin might clear up

Some may swear that going dairy-free helps the fight blemishes, but the relationship between diet and acne is an ongoing source of debate among dermatologists. Research stretching back to the 1940s suggests at most a weak link between dairy consumption and breakouts. However, some experts believe the hormones in milk products could play a role in exacerbating hormonal acne, and many people do report clearer complexions when they give up these foods. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends noting any food triggers that seem to aggravate the skin and cutting back with the help of an RDN to make sure you’re still eating a balanced diet.

Other skin conditions may improve, too

There’s no scientific evidence to back up claims that dairy aggravates skin conditions. That said, some people with eczema and psoriasis report fewer symptoms after they cut back or entirely eliminate dairy. In general, when skin is acting up, an RDN may recommend an elimination diet to help pinpoint the offender. Dairy is considered one of the most common food allergens (along with wheat, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, and peanuts), and is usually one of the groups excluded in such a diet. After a few weeks, food groups are added back to see which one is triggering inflammation.

The bottom line: Cutting out dairy is not a guaranteed fix for those with psoriasis and eczema. However, if you’re experiencing a sudden flare of symptoms, it may be worth trying an elimination diet to find out if a particular food is to blame; However, consult an RDN before attempting this diet.

Nutrition Daily Nugget

Drink Warm Lemon Water! Drinking a glass of warm lemon water in the morning will start your day off right! You’ll get a boost of vitamin C, clean out toxins from your body and keep your digestion system on track.

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5 Smart Carb Swaps

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Eating fewer carbs does not mean giving up everything you love. A few easy changes can make a big difference in how much you consume. Instead of choosing carb sources loaded with sugar, fat, and calories, opt for more nutrient-dense alternatives filled with fiber, heart-healthy fats, and whole grains. You’ll be surprised at much you love the alternatives below and how delicious eating low-carb can be.

1. BBQ Baked Beans

GOOD: Beans are full of fiber.

BAD: Lots of sugar in the sauce—13g for a total of 32g carbs.

BETTER: Black beans with sautéed red bell pepper, jalapeño, lime, and fresh cilantro. 10g fewer carbs and an additional 1.5g fiber.

2. Salad Dressings

GOOD: You’re eating salad!

BAD: Dressing choices, such as honey mustard (one of my favorites!!) and raspberry vinaigrette contain roughly 7g refined carbs per 2 tablespoons, all from sugar. And most light or fat-free dressings add sugar to make up for fat.

BETTER: Opt for oil and vinegar-based dressings instead; you’ll get zero carbs and lots of heart-healthy fats.

3. Apples with Low-Fat Caramel Dip

GOOD: You’re eating apples—25g balanced carbs and 4g fiber.

BAD: That caramel sauce has 26g carbs in just 2 tablespoons, all from sugar.

BETTER: Swap caramel for 1 tablespoon peanut butter. You’ll add 4g filling protein.

4. Cracker Jacks

GOOD: Whole grains and nuts.

BAD: The caramel adds 30g refined-sugar carbs per cup.

BETTER: Lightly salted oil-popped popcorn and nuts.

5. Mashed Taters

GOOD: More veggies.

BAD: No skin = 2g less fiber.

BETTER: Mashed butternut squash has just 47 calories, 12g carbs, and 4g fiber per ½ cup. Add a teaspoon of butter for 34 calories and 2.4g sat fat.

Not bad alternatives! And if you want to take your health goals to the next step, check out the challenge.

Nutrition challenge: If half of your daily grain intake is not 100% whole grain, I challenge you to “up-your-ante!” If this is old news to you, then what challenge will you take on?

Adapted from: Sidney Fry, MS, RD

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