Health benefits of beet juice & beet kvass

Beets at market

Beets at market

by Catherine Haug, April 28, 2014 (photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

Is there a history of high blood pressure and/or heart disease in your family, or do you have these issues? If the answer is YES, you might consider a daily glass of beet juice, or better yet, beet kvass (fermented beet juice). Or lacto-fermented (pickled) beets. Even roasted or steamed provide many of the same benefits (provided they are not overcooked).

But lowering blood pressure is not the only beneficial effect of this colorful vegetable.

Beets for lowering blood pressure

The ‘secret’ ingredient in beets pertinent to blood pressure is nitrates, that convert to nitric oxide (NO) when absorbed into the blood stream. Nitric oxide is what saves the life of people who take nitro-glycerine at the first sign of angina or chest-pain that could signal a heart attack, because the nitro-glucerine converts to nitric oxide

Don’t let the concern that nitrites can be cancer causing (they are added preservatives in lunch meats, hot dogs, etc.) put you off from drinking/eating beets, because:

  1. nitrites are not the same as nitrates (tho they can inter-covert);
  2. nitrates in whole food like beets are not the same as those added to hot dogs; that is, they don’t behave in the same way when consumed.

Nitric Oxide

Nitric oxide (NO) action in the body:

  • dilates and relaxes blood vessels,
  • increases blood flow,
  • stops the adhesion of white blood cells to the lining of blood vessels,
  • stops the migration of smooth muscle cells to the sites of atherosclerotic lesions (plaque-forming injuries), and
  • decreases the tendency of the blood to clot.

The dilation and relaxation of blood vessels is the nitrate effect that lowers blood pressure. Think of it as enlarging the diameter of pipes, allowing more liquid to flow.

Most of the NO in the body comes from the metabolism of proteins, but certain foods (like beets) can also provide it from the diet.

There has been a lot of research on this effect of beets; drinking beet juice (from beet-root) can lower blood pressure within 3 hours of drinking it, and the effects can last for 24 hours (3). How can it work so quickly?

Proponents of juicing believe that consuming raw foods as juice bypasses the need for the food to be digested before absorption, so the beneficial effect happens faster.

Other nutritional benefits of beet-root:

The ruby-red color of beets (beet-root) is the first clue of their antioxidant benefit; even yellow and orange beets have antioxidant benefits. The red-yellow color range in foods indicates the presence of different carotenes, of which vitamin A is the most well-known.

In addition to carotenes and nitrates, beet-root  is also rich in (1):

  • fiber (a type that is especially beneficial for the digestive tract and is believed to help prevent colon cancer, and support the cardiovascular system) (1)
  • folate (a B-vitamin) *
  • manganese
  • potassium
  • copper
  • magnesium
  • vitamin C
  • iron

*Folate is the naturally occurring active form of vitamin B9; folic acid is a more stable form used in supplements, but is inactive until converted to folate by methylation. Many people have a mutated form of MethylTetraHydroFolate Reductase, the enzyme required to convert from folic acid to folate. This mutation makes the enzyme ineffective; people with this mutation must get their B9 from whole foods like beets.

Beets contain a precursor to glutathione, the prime detox agent in the liver that works to rid the body of toxins that can cause many serious health problems, including colon cancer. Sulfur-containing amino acids such as methionine, glutamine and cysteine are essential for the liver to make glutathione. Note that glutamine is not the same as glutamic acid, a component of MSG. Note also that while glutathione supplements are available, they are essentially useless because the body’s digestive enzymes recognize glutathione as a protein, and break it down before it can be absorbed. Therefore, it is best to get its precursors from whole foods in the diet.

Beets have also been observed to lower blood sugar levels (improve insulin sensitivity), making them an important food for diabetics and pre-diabetics.

Ways to consume beet juice (includes recipes)

Juicing beets is well documented for its detox benefits. See also Health Ambition’s article: The 10 Health Benefits of Juicing Beets (5).

While freshly juiced raw beets provide the maximum health benefits inherent in beets, fermenting the beet juice (Beet Kvass) not only provides these same benefits but also provides the benefits of lacto-fermentation, provided the kvass is not pasteurized.

Similarly, lacto-fermentation of whole raw beets (Pickled Beets – on Cat’s Kitchen) provides the added benefit of lacto-fermentation – even if the beets are lightly cooked before fermenting.

See my earlier articles on The EssentiaList:

Or recipes on my personal recipe blog, Cat’s Kitchen:


  2. Mercola: Health Benefits of Beets
  3. Pub Med: article by L. Coles in Nutrition Journal: Effect of beetroot juice on lowering blood pressure in free-living, disease-free adults: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial.
  4. The Best of Raw Food: Benefits of Beet Juice
  5. Health Ambition: The 10 Health Benefits of Juicing Beets

One Response to “Health benefits of beet juice & beet kvass”

  1. […] community. I recently posted an article on the health benefits of beets, especially beet juice: Health Benefits of Beet Juice & Beet Kvass. But we don’t normally provide recipes on that site, so I provide pertinent recipes […]