If you aren’t already eating beets regularly, you should start. Beets are well-known for their numerous health effects, especially their ability to fight high blood pressure and improve endurance. But new research suggests that beets can also improve insulin responses and help lower blood sugar.
Glycemic index vs glycemic load
If you’ve ever had beets, you know that they are characteristically sweet. And yes, this means that beets do have a moderately high glycemic index, so they theoretically should produce a larger rise in glucose compared to many other foods. The glycemic load, however, takes into account the total amount of carbohydrates in the food. While the glycemic index of beets is high, they do not actually contain a high amount of carbohydrates per serving, making the glycemic load lower. This means that you would have to eat a lot of beets, more than you probably ever would in one sitting, to cause a significant rise in blood glucose levels.
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Beets are rich in fiber as well. This helps to fight high blood sugar, as increased dietary fiber intake is associated with better blood sugar control in patients with type 2 diabetes. Fiber slows down digestion and thus helps prevent a quick rise in glucose that can be dangerous.
Beets contain a large number of antioxidant compounds including many phenolic acids, flavanoids, and betalains. Antioxidants like these have been suggested to help modify blood sugar levels after meals. Researchers found that a predominant component of beets is the yellow/orange pigment called neobetanin, which probably plays an important role in insulin and blood glucose function.
While synthetic nitrates found in preserved foods can cause significant adverse health effects if consumed in large quantities, beets contain natural nitrates that are beneficial to your health. These nitrates help to lower blood pressure and may help to lower blood sugar as well. Low nitric oxide is associated with insulin resistance, and consumption of nitrate from beet juice can increase nitric oxide formation.
Beet juice improves glucose tolerance
Multiple studies have investigated the effects of consuming beets on blood sugar and insulin responses. In one, 225 mL of beetroot juice significantly reduced blood sugar up to 30 minutes following a meal compared to a control. Insulin levels were also lower after the meal. Researchers believe that the antioxidant compounds like polyphenols and betalains found in beets are likely important in the prevention of diabetes and the control of glucose levels. It seems that dietary modifications, such as eating more foods like beets, can help to lower glucose and insulin levels, which is important to prevent type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Share your experience
Do you eat beets for your health? Share your favorite recipes or tips for preparing these healthy superfoods in the comments section below.