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The extremely nutritious yet criminally underrated beetroot is likely not part of your regular vegetable rotation. But it should be! This healthy root has nutritious components like fiber, folate, managenese and potent antioxidants that contribute to its brilliant coloring. And now, new research finds yet another healthful boon to the mighty beet. If you’re in your golden years, you may want to add beets to your grocery list for improved health of blood vessels and the brain.
Beet juice has been linked to mouth bacteria associated with improved function of the brain and blood vessels in people ages 70-80. This is according to recent research from the University of Exeter. Beets are rich in nitrate, an inorganic water-soluble chemical. Bacteria in the mouth interact with nitrate, turning it into nitric oxide, a molecule important for many health aspects.
One of the best known functions of nitric oxide is vasodilation: It relaxes the inner muscles of blood vessels, widening them and promoting blood circulation. This allows blood, nutrients and oxygen to flow more efficiently through the body. Nitric oxide also plays important roles in intracellular signaling in neurons, the fundamental cells in the brain and nervous system.
With age, the human body begins to produce lower amounts of nitric oxide. Naturally, this leads to poorer vasodilation and cognitive health.
In the study, healthy older participants had their diets supplemented with nitrate-rich beet juice, which they drank twice daily. Upon evaluation, the researchers found higher levels of bacteria associated with good vascular and brain health in these participants. They also discovered a decrease in bacteria associated with disease and inflammation. Furthermore, systolic blood pressure was reduced by roughly 5 mmHg.
What does this mean for you?
The scientists found that nitrate-rich foods can substantially improve one’s oral microbiome, even within a short period of time such as ten days. They believe maintaining healthy mouth bacteria can have significant implications for healthy aging, slowing down age-related vascular and cognitive degeneration.
To improve the health of your blood vessels and optimize neurotransmission, consider incorporating more beets in your diet. Check out the following clean eats that complement this superfood with other nutrition-dense dietary gems: