How beetroot can be good for the blood

With the Tour de France having gripped the nation and the Commonwealth games being held in Glasgow, gaining ultimate health and fitness seems to be capturing our attention once more. There are a number of changes that people seem to be making to try and reach their own health targets. One of the things that seems to be high on the list of many health conscious folk is daily smoothies. It’s surprising how much benefit you can get from including a nutrient packed smoothie into your daily diet. And one of our favourite power packed veg to use is the simple beetroot.

Beetroot has made a name for itself lately and deservedly so, this vibrant little veg is packed full of betacyanin which gives it it’s amazingly rich colour. Betacyanin can reduce homocysteine levels, an elevated level can be associated with heart disease.

Beetroot smoothies have become increasingly popular with elite athletes to aid performance and improve endurance. Scientists found that when eight male volunteers aged between 19 and 38 years drank 500ml of beetroot juice every day for six days they were able to improve their exercise endurance, cycling for an extra 92 seconds than when they drank a placebo drink of blackcurrant cordial.

 

How does it work?

Other than a large capacity of antioxidants, beetroot also contains a large amount of nitrates. A 100g beetroot can contain 250mg of nitrate. Through a chain reaction, the body converts the nitrates to nitric oxide, a compound that can enhance blood flow throughout the body and help lower blood pressure, providing us with a larger capacity to improve blood flow and oxygenated red blood cells to the working muscles. A 2009 study found that having beetroot juice prior to a sports performance improved endurance and duration of exercise by 16%.

We realise that we need oxygen for our muscles to work for longer and stronger. However, some have been manipulating this for extra gains. For many years the practice of blood doping has been a serious problem in endurance sports. Blood doping is where an athlete will have up to 2pints of blood removed 2 weeks prior to an event allowing the body to rebuild its red blood cell quantity. Then 48hrs prior to the event the blood is reintroduced to augment the red blood cell quantities allowing for greater oxygen to be transported.

This method of performance has been outlawed by the World Anti-Doping Agency and all National Anti-Doping agencies. Consuming beetroot smoothies could help give you that natural edge. Following the ingestion of a 100g beetroot, nitrate concentration increases after 1-2 hours. So, try a beet smoothie a day and see if it improves your endurance and stamina.

These smoothies can be pre-made days in advance and frozen. The magic with this smoothie, is that the recipe is relatively simple, but you can adapt it as much as you want. The recipe can be adapted for cold weather by adding a little spice, such as turmeric or cinnamon.

Smoothie recipe

What you need..

150g beetroot
medium sized apple
handful of rocket
1 lime
3 tablespoons of yoghurt
pinch of rock salt
100ml water

How to make it…

Part boil the beetroot to soften then leave stand to chill for 20mins, or place back into the fridge. Cut the lime and place into the blender. Add a pinch of rock salt and a handful of rocket into the blender. Add 50ml of water into the blender and blend for 30 seconds. Cut the beetroot and add, along with the yogurt and the rest of the water. Blend until smooth.

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