IF YOU CRUISE past beets at the salad bar, back up. They’re exceptionally good for you. Beets are rich in naturally occurring nitrates, chemicals that widen blood vessels, which can lower blood pressure while increasing oxygen-rich blood flow to the brain and muscles, says Charlotte Caperton-Kilburn, a registered dietitian and director of sports nutrition at the College of Charleston, in South Carolina.
They could also help your workout. British researchers found that beet juice may reduce muscle soreness from intense exercise. And a study published in Nutrients suggests the juice may increase cardiovascular efficiency: Soccer players who drank concentrated juice ran farther while keeping their heart rates stable.
Plus, that red color signifies another power. It comes from betalains—potent antioxidants that battle free radicals and inflammation linked to chronic illnesses like cancer and heart disease. And beets are packed with potassium, fiber, and folate to help protect your ticker and your brain.
Down 16 ounces of the juice a few hours before your workout, Caperton-Kilburn says. And try to add a few servings of beets to your weekly vegetable rotation.