If you suffer from high blood pressure, beetroot juice could become your new favourite beverage of choice.
Scientists have found drinking just 250 ml of the ruby-red liquid helped bring some hypertension sufferers into normal range thanks to the root vegetable’s highly concentrated levels of nitrate.
The study, published this week in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, followed 15 patients – eight women and seven men –with systolic pressure between 140 -159 mm Hg, who were not taking blood pressure medication. (It’s important to note here that a high blood pressure reading is one that exceeds 140 mm Hg.)
The participants were asked to down either a glass of beetroot juice or water mixed with a small amount of nitrate and then monitored over a 24-hour period. Those who opted for the juice instead of water cut their systolic pressure by 10 mm Hg.
Astonishingly, the good result occurred within three to six hours after drinking and was present even 24 hours later.
“We were surprised by how little nitrate was needed to see such a large effect,” the study’s lead author, Amrita Ahluwalia, said.
The researchers, from Barts Health NHS Trust and the London Medical School, have been studying the health benefits of beetroot for the last few years. They believe that nitrate in beetroot helps to widen blood vessels and aid blood flow – hence why angina sufferers use nitrate to ease their symptoms.
“Our hope is that increasing one’s intake of vegetables with a high dietary nitrate content, such as green leafy vegetables or beetroot, might be a lifestyle approach that one could easily employ to improve cardiovascular health,” the study’s authors said, cautioning that more work in the area may be needed.
“We need larger studies in patients to determine if nitrate-rich vegetables are effective at lowering blood pressure over the long term,” they concluded.
Also found in high levels in celery, cabbage and other leafy green veggies, such as spinach and lettuce, nitrate occurs naturally in the soil and is taken in through vegetables via their roots – vital to their growth.
Beetroot juice is a reasonably affordable beverage that can be found in many health food stores. It has recently been attributed with helping to increase stamina and blood flow to the brain, lowering cholesterol and the progression of dementia and stabilising iron and blood sugar levels.
So what’s the down side?
Well, it can also turn your urine pink.