Beetroot Benefits for Men

Beetroot Benefits for Men

It’s a taste that’s come back into fashion – beetroot’s distinct colour and flavour is immediately recognisable. Whether you pick it out of your salads or get an extra helping, you’ll probably know that’s it’s a healthy food; high in fibre, vitamins, minerals, the typical boasts. For men, though, there may be some particularly interesting nutrients that strengthen the body.

Just what exactly are these benefits to men? What secrets are there in the make-up of this humble vegetable? Some of the answers to that question may surprise you; it turns out that beetroot is a more hard-working vegetable than you might think.

Why are Beetroots So Healthy?

There are some outlets that are now describing beetroot a ‘superfood’, even though it was just another harvest from allotments a few decades ago. It turns out there’s more going on in every gram of beetroot than we initially thought.

Naturally, it’s low in calories and high in fibre, but it’s the vitamins and minerals where the real story is told. One surprising fact is that it’s high in vitamin C, something usually more associated with citrus fruits, that contributes to immunity and skin health. It’s also high in another vitamin: B9, also known as folate or folic acid. This is used all over the body, supporting red blood cell production and reducing inflammation (more about this later). One more important nutrient abundant in beetroot is manganese; this is used in the creation of one of the more powerful antioxidants in the body, and is another reducer of inflammation.

Alongside these there’s plenty of iron, phosphorous and potassium to be had. There’s a lot going on chemically, and these have been shown to have some effects on the male body. With that, let's jump into an issue facing a huge percentage of men, especially as they get older:

Cardiovascular Issues

This humble vegetable can enhance the health of your heart and blood vessels. For men, heart disease and cardiovascular complications are one of the biggest health risks: stroke, heart attacks and atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries and vessels). Beetroot has a special characteristic that not only helps with cardiovascular health, but has other knock-on effects all around the body.

Beetroot is high in chemicals called nitrates. In the body, these get converted into an important compound called nitric oxide. What’s special about nitric oxide is that it causes blood vessels to relax and dilate. With wider and looser vessels to travel through, the blood is pumped around the body at a lower pressure, putting less strain on the heart and more delicate capillaries, like in the brain and lungs. One small study has found that nitric oxide levels increase by 20% only 45 minutes after taking a beetroot juice supplement.

The direct link between beetroot and lower blood pressure has been tested, too: a 2012 study found that drinking 500g of beetroot and apple juice lowered systolic blood pressure, especially in men. Reports also indicate that this effect seems to be greatest with raw or juiced beetroot, so don’t forget to add some to your salad or sandwich if you’re looking to support your heart health.

As we mentioned, this lowering of blood pressure has other potential effects on the body, too. One condition in men where greater blood flow will be important is…

Erectile Dysfunction and Libido

It’s estimated that roughly five percent of 40 year-old men have ‘complete’ erectile dysfunction, with that percentage growing as they age. It’s still, unfortunately, something that still has a stigma attached to it, despite it being so common. With a problem that’s known to have complex causes – both mental and physical – beetroot may be able to help, in a way that doesn’t draw attention to the issue.

There’s been a focus on the effects of high blood pressure on erectile dysfunction. The link seems intuitive; increased pressure can damage the vessels in the delicate soft tissue in the penis that engorges with blood during erections. This link has been observed in research, with more severe forms of erectile dysfunction sometimes being associated with hypertension. What’s interesting is that impotence sometimes can be a signifier of hypertension, often coming first before men get officially diagnosed.

So the vessel dilation effects of the previously-mentioned nitric oxide may indeed assist with erectile dysfunction. The thinking goes that if high blood pressure causes dysfunction, then the pressure-lowering effects of beetroot can support sexual wellness. Even without high pressure, increasing the blood flow around the body may help stimulate things, both in the body and the mind (more about that later).

Inflammation

When we get an infection or illness, the body reacts by creating white blood cells to fight off the foreign cells. When those white blood cells continue to fight after the problem’s cleared up – often attacking healthy cells – that’s when chronic inflammation occurs. For men, this can happen for a number of reasons (mainly lifestyle reasons or injury) but it’s been linked to some dangerous diseases, like certain cancers, pancreatitis, asthma and even depression. That’s not without noting the visible swelling or redness of swollen joints or rashes that can often occur.

Inflammation can become more serious and prevalent with age, but beetroot may be a natural support against its effects. The chemicals that are responsible are called betalains, the same ones that gives beetroot its distinct red colour.

There’s still more research to be done, but what’s been conducted so far has been promising. One such study found betalains promoted improvements in inflammation when it came to osteoarthritis patients, with another finding they improved “markers of liver injury and inflammation” caused by particular chemicals. There’s even some research showing how they can protect against certain types of cancer cells, with a 2015 review of research stating that beetroot and betalains “holds promise as a future strategy to at least help manage some of the symptoms of inflammation in cancer”.

Mental Benefits

Roughly 1 in 8 men have a common mental health problem, like anxiety, depression or bipolar disorders. Things like societal expectations, traditional gender roles and decreased access to help exacerbate the issue. Naturally, these are extremely complex conditions and have a range of causes and factors that dictate their severity. It might seem surreal that beetroot could be able to support mental health, but there’s a small amount of research pointing in that direction.

There’s some evidence that nitric oxide is also used in the brain, too. Specifically, decreased levels of nitric oxide can affect neurotransmitters in the brain negatively, potentially leading to the previously-mentioned mental illnesses. One study found that those with genes that cause ‘variants’ of normal nitric oxide production instead of standard genes are more vulnerable to depression.

So the thinking is that, with the increased levels of nitric oxide gained from beetroot, the chemistry in the brain can be normalised somewhat. There’s also reports of beetroot and nitric oxide possibly helping with Alzheimer’s disease, which is characterised by blood vessel damage in the brain.

Of course, if you or someone you know are suffering from serious mental health issues, please consult a doctor as soon as possible.

Best Way to Prepare Beetroot?

Like any vegetable, there’s a multitude of ways to take in beetroot’s nutrients. And much like other vegetables, any increase in its intake is a very good start. With all of the nutrients found in beetroot, even less healthy methods like roasting can still deliver some of the benefits to your body.

To make the most of the vegetable though, eating it with as little preparation as possible is key. For cooking, steaming is a great alternative to boiling. Even better than that, adding raw beetroot to salads and other meals will guarantee the maximum amount of nutrition. There’s even beetroot juices than can be made or purchased, if you’re looking to add it to your diet on-the-go. This can be an intense taste, so adding other flavours like apple or orange can make it more palatable to begin with, while you become used to the flavour.

Conclusion

For men, there’s more to beetroot than just a colourful addition to their food. On an atomic scale there’s chemical processes happening after its ingestion that can have small but tangible effects all over the body. Specifically, in areas where men are often more at risk: cardiovascular health, mental health and sexual health. That’s without even mentioning how its fibre and vitamin content can be a boon to the body, outside of men’s health. We should be so lucky that it’s so tasty and easy to grow!


Sources:

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/ingredient-focus-beetroot

https://foodrevolution.org/blog/benefits-of-beets/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29370244

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23231777

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22240443

https://www.auajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1016/S0022-5347%2805%2967138-8

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425174/

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/m/men-and-mental-health

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2451830117300493

https://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/pn.46.9.psychnews_46_9_20_1