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You might have heard about the relationship between beetroot juice and sports performance, but could there be a link between this earthy juice and anti-aging? Perhaps!
A number of studies looked at the amount of blood flow to the brain after consuming beetroot juice and found that it not only increased blood flow to the brain, but it also boosted stamina and decreased hypertension among heart disease patients.
The Journal of Gerontology published a study conducted at Wake Forest University that observed 26 hypertension patients aged 55 and over. The participants did not exercise regularly and were on at least two medications for hypertension. Thirteen of these individuals consumed beetroot juice one hour before a moderate 50-minute exercise bout on the treadmill three times per week for six weeks. They consumed a beetroot supplement called Beet-It Sport Shot, which contains 560 mg of nitrate. The other 13 individuals consumed a placebo with a very low level of nitrates.
Before we get to the results, let’s talk about the somatomotor cortex. It’s an area of the brain that receives information from our muscles. In the study, the somatomotor cortex had higher oxygenation levels in participants who exercised and consumed beetroot juice than in the placebo group. The study concluded that due to the higher nitric oxide levels in this group, the cerebral functioning was ignited more so than in the placebo group. This finding suggests that beetroot juice may have an impact on cognitive health. They noticed that with beetroot juice and exercise, the brain functioned similarly to the brain of younger individuals. Although this study was conducted on a small group of people and more research is needed, it adds to our well-known theory that nitric oxide, in conjunction with exercise, can positively improve brain functions and quality of life as we get older.
What’s so special about nitric oxide? It’s a powerful molecule that travels to areas of the body that are in need of oxygen, especially during exercise! We need more oxygen to fuel an increase in activity, and nitric oxide from beetroot juice fills that void, allowing for longer durations of exercise. When we age, the need for oxygen in our brains also increases. Nitric oxide helps dilute the blood in our arteries, which, in turn, improves the circulation of oxygenated blood to our brains. This promotes anti-aging effects in addition to improvements in performance. And I’m not only talking about sports performance; I’m also talking about improving all activities of daily living.
The bottom line here is that beetroot juice is a healthy addition to your diet! This whole food will enhance your strength, endurance, and mind. Research is ongoing as to what other health benefits it offers. Try drinking beetroot juice or eating beets about an hour before exercise and see what it does for you!
Jenn Giles, R.D., C.S.S.D. is all about health and wellness. She has over 15 years’ experience, including a dual master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She supplements all of this with her spin instructor certification and USATriathlon Level I Coach Certification.
Jennifer is passionate about (actually, obsessed with) the sport of triathlon. She has been personally participating in triathlons since 2000 and running road races since 1992. She is a two-time Ironman finisher and has completed countless numerous marathons. She has been a member of Power Bar Team Elite since 2006 and competed as a member of the 2006 Aquaphor/Active.com Sponsored Athlete Team. She was ranked as USAT All American Honorable mention in 2006 and 2011. Jennifer does all of this along side of her husband, Patrick, who is an equally accomplished triathlete and runner. They try as hard as they can to do all of their training and racing together.
She will tell you, however, that her most important, most rewarding and most challenging job is as a mother of four. She knows first hand the challenges of maintaining optimal fitness, overall good health and achieving goals while raising a family - of which good nutrition is the cornerstone.
Most importantly, she knows how to motivate, inspire and challenge athletes based on their own abilities, strengths and everyday lifestyles. She believes there is an athlete in everyone - no matter what their abilities are – and if those abilities are manifold, then there is an even better athlete in there!