The Surprising Side Effects of Eating Beets, According to Science

Bunch of fresh raw organic beets with leaves


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Bunch of fresh raw organic beets with leaves

Important Health Benefits

Show of hands, whose favorite food is beets? Anyone? Maybe just the fictional Dwight Schrute on “The Office” then. You might think that beets have a weird texture or kind of taste like dirt, but here are plenty of reasons to like the earthy but sweet taste of nutrient-rich beets. Read on to find out what they are. (Interested in healthy eating? Check out these fall superfoods.)


Related: Facts About Apples That Will Take You by Surprise

Picking up beetroot from vegetable garden

What Are Beets?

Beetroot — or beets as they’re commonly known in the United States — are a root vegetable. The edible bulb is purple-ish and round. It’s what people first think of when they think of beets. But don’t discount the greens that will peek out from the ground. They’re edible and full of nutrients, too.

Related: Foods You've Been Cooking Wrong Your Whole Life 

fresh sliced beetroot on wooden surface

Jewel-Toned Veggie

Beets are easily recognized by their rich red-purple color found in the most common varieties. The color comes from betalains, which are nitrogen-containing pigments found in the caryophyllales family of flowering plants. Prickly pears also contain betalains.


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Beet harvest

The Color of Health

Betalains are often used to reduce oxidative stress, inflammation, and blood pressure. Don’t confuse beetroot with sugar beets though. They are very different nutritionally. Sugar beets are white and used as sweeteners. Beetroot comes in a wide range of purple and red hues, as well as golden and yellow. (There are also some heirloom varieties of beetroot that are white, including 'Detroit white.') Chioggia beets, also known as "Candystripe" or "Bull's eye" look like a typical red beet on the outside, but inside contain concentric rings of white and pink, which can add a dramatic flair to salads and other dishes. Golden and yellow beets still have betalains — just a different type.

Isolated palm of womans hand stained red from cutting and working with raw beets
Susan Vineyard/istockphoto

Natural Food Dye

Betalains are also used as a natural food dye. Betalains give a rich reddish-purple color without the potential health risks that come with artificial colors. Just be careful. That color gets everywhere. Don’t delay cleanup when cooking with beets. You don’t want the jewel tone seeping into your beautiful countertops or giving your hands suspicious red stains.

Red beet juice

But They Turn Everything Red

“Betalains from beets do have a strange side-effect,” said Ashley Larsen, RDN, owner of Ashley Larsen Nutrition. “Eating beets can cause your urine to turn bright red, which can be alarming at first, but don’t panic because it’s completely harmless.”

Red Beetroot with green leaves

Full of Fiber

A cup of beets offers nearly 4 grams of filling fiber, which is great for digestive health and controlling appetite. In addition, beets are packed with potassium, folate, and beta carotene. If that’s not enough, you also get a couple grams of plant protein.

Close Up of Healthy Fresh Juice
Mature Woman testing for high blood sugar

Insulin Response Improved

The nitrates in beetroot helped significantly improve insulin sensitivity in study participants with type 2 diabetes in just two weeks, according to another study.


Beets and powder

Antioxidant Action

Antioxidants prevent oxidation, which is a chemical reaction that damages cells. Antioxidants are a powerful ingredient for reducing risk of heart disease, some cancers, and arthritis. A study in the Journal of Functional Foods found that the body absorbs more antioxidants from beetroot than from other vegetable juices.

Sitting all day can cause tightness around your joints
Charday Penn/istockphoto

Eases Arthritis Pain

The betalain in beets has been shown to help reduce the pain of arthritis. Study participants reported a 33% reduction in arthritis-related pain after just 10 days of taking a betalain extract.  

beetroot salad with blue cheese

How to Eat Them

“There are many creative ways you can eat beets, from pickled, roasted, boiled, or pureed,” Larsen said. “The earthy and slightly sweet flavor pairs well with cheese, vegetables, and protein. Try adding roasted beets to a salad with spinach, goat cheese, and vinaigrette dressing.”

Related: 28 Fall Recipes That Showcase Seasonal Fruits and Veggies 

three roots of cooked peeled beet in a row on the black background
Tatiana Foxy/istockphoto
Smoothies of red berries in a glass with half a beet, raspberries and black currants on a pink paper background.

Toss It in a Smoothie

Ready-to-eat beets are available frozen or in cans. An easy way to increase beet intake is blending frozen beet chunks with fruit and yogurt in a smoothie. Even kids like it because the beets give off a bright color and fruit disguises any vegetable flavor. 

Baked beetroot salad with arugula, nuts and goat cheese, top view.

Pair With Goat Cheese

Beets go nicely with goat cheese. Combine the two ingredients for an elegant starter or toss into a delicious beet salad with greens and a tangy balsamic dressing. “Not only do they taste delicious,” Larsen said, “but they also add so much color to your plate, making your meal even more appetizing.”


Related: How to Cook the Unloved Foods Still on the Shelves

beet salad

Mix With Citrus

Another great beet combo is pairing earthy beets with sweet citrus. This winter citrus salad makes a great holiday side dish or a fun salad to liven up an ordinary Tuesday!

beet pizza

A Slice of Beet Pie

If you’re not so sure about serving the family beets, what about introducing them as a pizza topping? Top a basic pizza crust with pesto and beets and cover with goat cheese. You might have a new family favorite!

colored hummus, classic hummus, beet hummus, hummus on a dark rustic background. Top view, flat lay. Clean eating, dieting, vegetarian party food.

Whirl Into Hummus

Even kids might appreciate the bright color of beets in a fun dip. Combine with chickpeas, tahini, and a pinch of salt and serve with crackers, pita chips, or veggies.

Beetroot vegan burgers with rice and beans

A Vegan Burger

Skip the super processed vegan burgers and give your plant-based burger that red color and a ton of nutrients with beets instead. Top with your favorite condiments.

Fresh young leaves of chard for salad in a bowl

Use the Greens

Beet greens are a good source of iron, potassium, and calcium. They have a mild taste like spinach with a rougher texture. Try sauteeing beet greens like you would collard greens. Try using olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice.

Vegan beetroot chocolate cake