woman slicing beets on chopping board

When it comes to fan favorite veggies, beets don’t get much love. According to a 2021 survey of 2,000 Americans conducted by OnePoll and reported on by SWNS Digital, beets were the second least favorite vegetable (ahead of only turnips), with just 26% of respondents saying they enjoyed them. Still, whether you love ’em or hate ’em, there’s no denying that beets are incredibly nutritious. They are low in calories, are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and contain a variety of compounds that have been linked to everything from improved athletic performance to reduced blood pressure (via WebMD).

When you think of beets, you probably think of the deep red variety, with its distinctively sweet and earthy flavor. But according to The Spruce Eats, you can also find golden beets (which are less sweet than their red counterparts, but have less of that "dirt" taste people often dislike) and chiogga beets (which feature beautiful natural striping when raw). Beets have been cultivated since ancient Roman times, but their popularity exploded once European scientists discovered beets could be grown to produce a cheaper alternative to sugar from sugarcane (via the University of Wisconsin-Madison). Today, half of the world’s sugar is extracted from beets.

Don’t let their sweet side fool you, though. Beets (including their often neglected greens) are a nutritional powerhouse. And while most people only know them in their canned form, this hardy vegetable can be prepared in a variety of ways, and is especially delicious when roasted.

You’ll get lots of antioxidants when you eat beets every day

golden beets on wooden surface

Like other fruits and veggies, beets are packed with antioxidants. However, as registered dietitian Camille Skoda explained in an interview with the Cleveland Clinic, "they’re one of very few fruits or vegetables that have that deep red-purple color, which provides a different set of … antioxidants than you’ll get from produce of other colors." Beets owe their color and much of their antioxidant content to compounds known as betalains. The specific betalains you’ll get are based on beet variety. Red and purple beets contain betalains known as betacyanins, while golden beets contain betaxanthins.

But what exactly do the antioxidants in beets and other foods do, and why are they so important for good health? As Live Science explained, antioxidants are chemicals that protect the body against damage from free radicals. Free radicals are highly unstable atoms of oxygen that try to "steal" electrons from other molecules in the body. This destabilizes the molecules and creates a chain reaction that leads to damage throughout the body, a process known as oxidative damage or oxidative stress. Substances that produce free radicals can be found in food and in our environment, and free radicals are also created as the byproduct of natural chemical processes in the body. Antioxidants are able to give free radicals the electrons they want without becoming destabilized themselves, thus protecting the body from oxidative damage.

Eating beets every day will keep you regular

diced beets on white plate

Including lots of beets (and other fiber-rich foods) in your diet will ensure smooth sailing in the bathroom. According to the Mayo Clinic, "dietary fiber … includes the parts of plant foods your body can’t digest or absorb." It comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber absorbs water as it passes through your digestive tract, while insoluble fiber doesn’t. Although both types of fiber are beneficial, the insoluble kind is responsible for keeping you regular. Adult women should aim to get 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day, depending on age, while men should shoot for 30 to 38 grams. A daily dose of beets is a great place to start. One cup provides 3.8 grams of fiber (via Good Housekeeping).

Many people have less-than-stellar number twos. As Dr. Arun Sachdev, a gastroenterologist at INTEGRIS Health, explained, "chronic constipation means a person generally has less than three stools per week lasting for several months." The condition affects 15%–20% of Americans. Although not getting enough fiber to keep things moving along is a common culprit, it’s important to note that other possible causes include certain medications, hypothyroidism, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and colon cancer.

Avoid painful muscle cramps by eating potassium-rich beets every day

man holding cramping leg

Potassium is a micronutrient that probably isn’t on your radar, but it should be. The National Institutes of Health recommends that adult men get 3,400 milligrams of potassium daily, while non-pregnant women should aim for 2,600 milligrams. However, the average daily potassium intake among adult men is only 3,016 milligrams, while women get an average of 2,320 milligrams. Potassium is used by every cell in the body and, along with sodium, plays a key role in regulating fluid balance. The NIH noted that "insufficient potassium intakes can increase blood pressure, kidney stone risk, bone turnover, urinary calcium excretion, and salt sensitivity (meaning that changes in sodium intakes affect blood pressure to a greater than normal extent)."

Sudden, painful muscle cramps are a telltale sign of low potassium levels. As Healthline explained, potassium helps relay signals from the brain to the muscles, causing them to contract. When potassium leaves muscle cells, this causes the muscle contraction to end. But, "when blood potassium levels are low, your brain cannot relay these signals as effectively. This results in more prolonged contractions, such as muscle cramps."

Although bananas are the poster child for potassium, beets are also an excellent source. According to Good Housekeeping, a one-cup serving offers 442 milligrams. That’s more than the 420 milligrams offered by a medium banana (via Eating Well).

Stock up on manganese by eating beets every day

variety of beets arranged artistically

We’ve had it drilled into our heads from a young age that calcium builds strong bones, and while that’s certainly true, other minerals are also needed to keep your skeleton sturdy. The trace mineral manganese plays an important role in bone health. Several enzymes involved in bone formation need manganese to function properly, and manganese deficiency can cause decreased bone density (via the National Institutes of Health).

But the benefits of manganese don’t stop there. As Healthline explained, this mineral is needed to make superoxide dismutase (SOD), one of the most powerful antioxidants found in the body. In addition to fighting damage caused by free radicals, SOD also appears to have anti-inflammatory effects. Manganese also plays a role in blood sugar regulation and the metabolism of proteins, cholesterol, and carbohydrates. Without manganese, your body couldn’t make use of a number of vitamins, including vitamin C, vitamin E, thiamine (vitamin B1), and choline. Research also suggests that manganese can improve wound healing, reduce the symptoms of PMS, and ease the pain of osteoarthritis when combined with glucosamine and chondroitin.

According to NutritionData, a 3.5–ounce serving of cooked beets contains 16% of your daily manganese needs.

Eating beets every day is a great way to get the folate your body needs

red beets freshly harvested

As the National Institutes of Health explains, folate (vitamin B9) is necessary for the replication of DNA and RNA, as well as cell division and the metabolism of amino acids from dietary protein. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for folate is 400 micrograms for both men and nonpregnant women. Pregnant women, however, need substantially more folate (600 micrograms), and breastfeeding mothers also have higher-than-average folate needs (500 micrograms).

Although most adults get enough folate, about 17% of women between the ages of 19 and 30 don’t meet the minimum suggested amount. Folate deficiency usually occurs alongside other nutritional deficiencies. It can lead to anemia, which in turn causes extreme fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, and heart issues. Most people know about folate deficiency, however, because of the devastating effect it can have during pregnancy. Babies whose mothers don’t get enough folate during pregnancy are at increased risk for preterm birth, low birthweight, and neural tube defects (conditions such as spina bifida that affect the formation of the brain and spinal cord).

According to NutritionData, a 3.5–ounce serving of cooked beets contains 80 micrograms of folate — 20% of the daily needs of adult men and nonpregnant women and 13% of what a mother-to-be requires.

Improve your blood pressure by eating beets every day

woman having blood pressure taken

You’ve probably heard that nitrates are what make bacon so bad for you, but did you know that there are other nitrates you should be trying to get more of in your diet?

Unlike the synthetic nitrates used as preservatives in bacon and other cured meats, the natural nitrates found in beets and certain vegetables and fruits are beneficial for health (via Livestrong). The natural nitrates in beets and other whole foods break down into nitrites and nitric oxide when metabolized, and it’s the nitric oxide that’s been linked to reduced risk for heart disease and certain metabolic conditions. Synthetic nitrates, on the other hand, break down into harmful compounds known as nitrosamines. WebMD reported on a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in which researchers examined the effect nitrates had on participants’ blood pressure. They found that "average diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in a blood pressure measurement) was 3.7 mm Hg lower after three days of nitrate supplementation." Nitrates help keep blood vessels healthy and adequately dilated, thus reducing blood pressure.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explained, hypertension — defined as a systolic blood pressure (the top number of a blood pressure reading) equal to or greater than 130 mmHg or a diastolic blood pressure equal to or greater than 80 mmHg — affects approximately 47% of American adults. It’s considered a major risk factor for both heart disease and stroke.

Eating beets every day could improve your sex life

couple cuddling in bed

Does a better sex life begin in the kitchen? Because the natural nitrates found in beets (and the nitric oxide formed when nitrates are metabolized) help relax and enlarge blood vessels, they can have a positive impact on sexual arousal and performance.

In a 2004 paper published in the International Journal of Impotence Research, researchers noted that vesicles in the penis’s cavernosal tissue release elevated levels of nitric oxide during arousal, which leads to (and helps maintain) an erection. Nitric oxide is also important for the ladies. In a 2009 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers noted that nitric oxide played a major role in increased blood flow to the clitoris and vagina during sexual arousal. Estrogen appears to help regulate nitric oxide release in women. The study’s authors noted that female sexual arousal disorder (FSAD), which affects 25%-70% of women, may be related to poor regulation of nitric oxide.

Although they may feel uncomfortable talking about it, many Americans could use some help in the bedroom. A 2017 survey found that 34% of participants were unsatisfied with their sex lives. One in six reported that their current partner rarely or never satisfies them sexually. Women were more than twice as likely as men to characterize their sex life as boring. The main complaints? A lack of foreplay, sex that didn’t last long enough, and lack of communication.

Can eating beets every day improve athletic performance?

man doing deadlift outdoors

Need another reason to eat more nitrate-rich beets? According to a 2017 study published in Nutrients, the nitrates in beets may improve athletes’ endurance by increasing cardiorespiratory efficiency. Beets may also lengthen the amount of time an athlete can perform before feeling exhausted, as well as increasing their overall cardiorespiratory performance when pushing themselves to their limit. It’s important to note, however, that these results were observed with beet juice supplements, so simply eating whole beets may not have the same effect. The authors of the study acknowledged that improvements with the beet juice supplements were relatively small, which could mean the difference between winning and losing for an elite athlete but might not even be noticeable to the average weekend warrior. The authors also noted that previous research has produced conflicting results when it comes to nitrates’ impact on athletic performance.

A 2017 paper published in Plant & Cell Physiology explained the mechanism behind nitrates’ ability to improve athletic performance. The mitochondria in our cells can’t work properly when they aren’t getting adequate oxygen (for example, when we’re exercising hard), but nitric oxide allows them to function normally. As the Science Learning Hub explained, mitochondria are small structures found inside every cell in our bodies. They’re known as the "powerhouse of the cell" because they produce the chemical energy the cell needs to perform its functions. Cells that need a lot of energy (including muscle cells) contain a lot of mitochondria.

Eating beets daily could protect your vision as you age

close-up of older woman's face

The natural nitrates in beets may protect your peepers by reducing your risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). As the National Eye Institute explained, AMD is a disease in which central vision becomes blurry because of damage to the macula, a part of the retina that controls sharp, straight-ahead vision. AMD is a common cause of vision loss in older adults, though it doesn’t lead to total blindness. AMD comes in two forms: the more common dry form and the more severe wet form. In dry AMD, the macula thins gradually over time. In wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels develop in the retina, damaging the macula.

A 2018 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that those who consumed the most vegetable-based nitrates had a significantly decreased risk for early-onset AMD. On the other hand, no association was found between the likelihood of developing AMD and total non-vegetable nitrate consumption. This suggests that synthetic nitrates such as those used in processed meats offer no protection against AMD, while the nitrates found naturally in beets and other vegetables have a positive effect.

Can a daily dose of beets ward off cancer?

hands holding multicolored cancer awareness ribbons

According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 39.5% of Americans will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime. Although advances in screening and treatment have improved the prognosis for these individuals, cancer remains among the leading causes of death in the United States. Could something as simple as eating beets every day reduce your cancer risk?

A 2019 paper published in Molecules identified a number of compounds within beets that may prevent carcinogenesis, the transformation of normal body cells into cancerous ones. This is a multi-step process that begins with inflammation and oxidative stress. Betaine appears to be the primary cancer0fighting compound found in beets. Other substances that may also help combat carcinogenesis include ferulic acid, caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid, syringic acid, rutin, kaempferol, rhamnetin, rhamnocitrin, astragalin, oleanolic acid, beta-carotene, and lutein. The authors cautioned, however, that previous studies linking beets and beet extracts to cancer prevention were carried out on animals or in petri dishes, so more research on humans is needed.

A 2019 paper published in Clinical Nutrition found that individuals who consumed the most betaine were 13% less likely to get cancer than those who consumed the least. Similarly, individuals with the highest circulating betaine levels in their blood were 12% less likely to get cancer than those with the lowest blood levels. Betaine levels did not, however, appear to have any impact on an individual’s chance of surviving if they were diagnosed with cancer.

Eating beets every day could increase your risk of kidney stones

beet and glass of beet juice

Although they’re an extremely healthy vegetable packed with plenty of important micronutrients, eating too many beets could be a bad idea for certain individuals because of their high oxalate content. According to Healthline, oxalate (oxalic acid) is an organic compound found in many plant foods. Oxalate binds to minerals (usually calcium) to create a salt, and these salts leave the body through both stool and urine. In some individuals, however, these salts collect in the kidneys and become kidney stones.

While several substances can concentrate in the kidneys and become stones, the National Kidney Foundation noted that calcium oxalate accounts for the majority of stones. These stones can be extremely painful to pass, and may require surgical removal. They’re also much more common than you might think: Roughly 9% of women and 11% of men will get kidney stones at least once in their lives, and having one kidney stone puts you at much higher risk for additional stones. Kidney stones increase your risk for chronic kidney disease.

According to Washington College, both beets and their greens are a high oxalate food, and should be eaten only infrequently and in small quantities by people who are sensitive to the effects of oxalates. Boiling and fermenting, however, can reduce oxalate content.

Eating beets every day can cause GI issues for some people

woman holding stomach in pain

While the fiber and micronutrients in beets are beneficial for digestive health, beets also contain FODMAPs, which can cause unpleasant GI symptoms for sensitive individuals.

As Healthline explained, FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols) are a group of "nondigestible short-chain carbs that are osmotically active, meaning they force water into your digestive tract." And because gut bacteria release gas as a byproduct as they feed on these carbohydrates, FODMAPs may cause bloating, abdominal discomfort, and a change in bathroom habits for sensitive individuals. As many as 60% of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are sensitive to at least one FODMAP. For these individuals, following a low-FODMAP diet can be helpful. But for individuals without IBS, following a low-FODAMP diet can do more harm than good, because it robs your gut bacteria of the fuel they need to thrive.

Unfortunately, according to the University of Virginia, beets are considered a high-FODMAP food. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid them entirely; the key is reducing portion size. Monash University noted that a serving of two slices of cooked beets has a low level of FODMAPs. While that isn’t enough to enjoy them as a stand-alone side dish, you could turn those two slices into a dip, add them to a salad or sandwich, or even blend them into a smoothie.

Don’t be alarmed if eating beets every day turns your pee and poop red

hand closing toilet lid

If you see red in the toilet bowl after eating a big helping of beets, it’s likely not cause for alarm. As the National Library of Medicine (NLM) explained, discoloration of urine after eating beets is a benign condition known as beeturia. Pigments in beets known as betacyanins are the reason for the color change, which may range from a light pink tinge to a deep red hue. Historically, researchers thought beeturia might be the result of an allergy to beets or colonization of the urinary tract by harmful bacteria, but we now know this isn’t the case and the condition is harmless.

It is important to note, however, that people who are iron deficient or have certain gastrointestinal conditions that cause malabsorption tend to have a higher prevalence of beeturia. So while beeturia itself is nothing to worry about, seeing it often could indicate an individual has other, more serious underlying medical conditions that need to be addressed. An estimated 10%–14% of the general population experience beeturia after consuming beets, but that percentage jumps dramatically to 45% among those with pernicious anemia (a lack of healthy red blood cells caused by the inability to absorb vitamin B12). Men and women appear to be affected by beeturia equally. According to Medical News Today, individuals may also see a red hue in their stool a couple days after eating beets.

You’ll be getting an extra health boost by eating beet greens every day, too

woman holding freshly harvested beets

When it comes to beets, most people just stick with the bulbous, richly-colored root. But the greens of the beet plant are also delicious and packed with important micronutrients.

According to NutritionData, a one-cup serving of cooked beet greens contains just 39 calories, but offers 4.2 grams of fiber and 3.7 grams of protein. When it comes to the daily value (DV) of micronutrients, the same serving size provides 220% of vitamin A, 60% of vitamin C, 24% of riboflavin, 13% of vitamin E, and a whopping 871% of vitamin K. You’ll also meet 37% of your potassium and manganese needs, 24% of your magnesium needs, 18% of your copper needs, 16% of your calcium needs, and 15% of your iron needs.

But the health benefits don’t stop there. As Taste of Home explained, beet greens, like the roots, are loaded with natural nitrates that reduce blood pressure and improve athletic performance. The greens also contain anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer compounds, and could help improve the health of the brain and digestive tract. Beet greens can be prepared in a number of ways, including sautéing and baking. So the next time you pick up beets, look for a bunch sold with the greens still attached. Although hardy beets can last for months when stored properly, the greens will only last a few days in the fridge, so be sure to eat them quickly (via MyRecipes).