Beets and raw beet juice are typically recommended in limited amounts due to high sugar content.
However, when fermented, beets may be among the healthiest vegetables out there, as most of the sugar is then gobbled up by beneficial bacteria during the fermentation process while leaving other health-boosting ingredients intact.
Fermented foods are also chock-full of probiotics or good bacteria. A large number of studies have demonstrated how the ideal balance and diversity of bacteria in your gut forms the foundation for physical, mental and emotional well-being, and fermented beet juice has many additional benefits beyond probiotics.
Raw Beets Boost Heart Health
For example, raw beets have been shown to lower blood pressure by an average of four to five points in a matter of hours. This effect is due to the naturally occurring nitrates in beets, which are converted into nitric oxide in your body.
Nitric oxide, in turn, helps to relax and dilate your blood vessels, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure. In fact, medicinally, nitrates are used to treat angina and congestive heart failure, and research shows a glass of beetroot juice has the same effect as prescription nitrates.
Competitive athletes also use beet juice for its nitric oxide-boosting benefits. Research shows raw beets may boost stamina during exercise by as much as 16 percent, an effect attributed to increased nitric oxide.
In another study, nine patients diagnosed with heart failure who experienced loss of muscle strength and reduced ability to exercise were found to benefit from beet juice.
The patients were given 140 milliliters (mL) — about two-thirds of a cup — of concentrated beet juice, followed by testing, which found an almost instantaneous increase in their muscle capacity by an average of 13 percent.
One important caveat: Avoid using mouthwashes or chewing gum, as this prevents the nitric oxide conversion from occurring. The reason for this is because the nitrate is converted into nitrite in your saliva by friendly bacteria. That nitrite is then converted into nitric oxide in other places of your body.
Naturally occurring betaine in beets also helps reduce inflammation and protect against environmental stressors that can play a role in heart disease.
Beets Have Powerful Immune-Boosting and Anti-Cancer Properties
The phytonutrients that give beets their deep crimson color also have powerful anti-cancer properties. Research has shown that beetroot extract reduced multi-organ tumor formations in various animal models when administered in drinking water.
Beetroot extract is also being studied for use in treating human pancreatic, breast and prostate cancers.
In addition, raw beets help boost immune function thanks to high vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and manganese, while the betalain pigments and sulfur-containing amino acids in beets support your body’s Phase 2 detoxification process. Traditionally, beets have been valued for their ability to purify your blood and liver.
High in the B vitamin folate, beets may also lower your stroke risk and are excellent food for pregnant women. Folate is essential for many bodily processes, and a lack of folate during pregnancy raises the risk of birth defects. The blood-cleansing properties of beet kvass may also help alleviate morning sickness.
Why Ferment Your Beets?
Fermenting your beets rather than eating them raw gives you all the health-boosting benefits of raw beets — which are made even more bioavailable through fermentation — plus the beneficial bacteria and enzymes that result from fermentation.
Besides pickled beets and beet-infused sauerkraut, fermented beet juice, known as beet kvass is rising in popularity in the West.
Beet kvass has a long tradition of use in Russia, Ukraine, and other eastern European countries, where it’s consumed therapeutically as a general health tonic. It’s also commonly added to soups, sauces, and vinaigrettes.
Traditionally, beet kvass has been used to boost immune function, cleanse the blood, combat fatigue and treat kidney stones, chemical sensitivities, allergies, and digestive problems. Anecdotal reports suggest beet kvass may even improve the appearance of age spots, thicken hair and minimize graying of hair.
Recent animal research confirms the gastrointestinal benefits of lactofermented beetroot juice, showing it helps to improve gut microbiota and metabolic activity.
Because of its detoxifying properties, avoid drinking too much when first starting out. Doing so could result in an overload of released toxins, producing bloating, constipation and/or cold or flu symptoms.
As a general recommendation, start out with 1 ounce per day, gradually increasing the amount to an 8-ounce glass per day. If you’re highly toxic, you may need to start out with as little as a tablespoon.
Raw Beets and Beet Kvass May Benefit What Ails You
As you can see, beets have a wide range of health benefits. If you struggle with high blood pressure or heart failure, you may want to experiment with raw beet juice or beet kvass and see how it impacts you. If you notice improvements in your blood pressure or stamina after drinking the juice, it may be a good fit.
If you have diabetes or are insulin resistant, carefully monitor how raw beet juice affects your overall health, and factor that into how often you choose to consume it. Typically, moderation is best.
Using beet kvass would appear to be a far better option, as much of the sugar is eliminated in the fermentation process. By supplying beneficial bacteria, the drink can also have a beneficial impact on diabetes and a whole host of other health problems, especially ailments rooted in gut dysfunction, and that list is a rather long one since it’s difficult to be optimally healthy if your gut microbiome is unhealthy.