We’re calling it: Beets are one of the most underrated vegetables out there. While you may not find them on your average grocery list, they’re chock-full of nutrients that provide loads of health benefits, from fighting cancer to lowering your risk of heart disease.
Now, you have one more reason to add these delicious bites to your dinner plate tonight (aside from the fact that they’re one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat!) According to new research, taking a daily shot of beet juice one hour before a workout can improve the function and performance of aging brains.
To examine the combined effects of exercise and beet juice, researchers at Wake Forest University recruited 26 sedentary men with high blood pressure. The average age of the participants was 65. All of the men participated in a six-week exercise program, during which they walked on a treadmill three times per week until they could exercise for 50 minutes per session. While one group took a shot of beet juice one hour before they exercised, the other took a placebo. Before and after the trial, the researchers examined the connections between different regions in the subjects’ brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
At the end of the six weeks, both groups showed improved connections between the neurons found in the motor regions of their brains. However, the improvements were significantly greater in those that drank beet juice. And get this: The average number of mobility problems found in the brains of the beet juice group was comparable to those of a 26-year-old.
Why is beet juice and exercise such a great combo? According to the researchers, beet juice is loaded with nitrate, which is converted from nitrite to nitric oxide in the bloodstream. Scientists believe that this conversion process is enhanced in low-oxygen conditions, such as during hard exercise. So if you drink beet juice before a workout, more nitrite can be converted to nitric oxide as areas of your brain start to suffer from lower oxygen levels. That process, in turn, helps relax and dilate your blood vessels, bringing more oxygen-rich blood to the brain and boosting its performance.
While that process may seem complicated, there’s one simple takeaway. If you’re looking for a way to eat your way to a younger, healthier brain, look no further. Beet juice has huge benefits for your noggin.