Beets are often referred to as a superfood. This jewel-colored root vegetable has been used for centuries to treat a number of conditions, from constipation to fever.

Beetroot is full of folates, potassium, and other nutrients that are good for your health in general, but research shows that beets may be especially beneficial for people with diabetes.

Beets are rich in powerful antioxidants and nutrients that have been linked to a number of health benefits.

Here’s a look at the proven health benefits of beets, including the positive effects of beets for people with diabetes.

Lower blood sugar and insulin

Beets are rich in phytochemicals that have been shown to have a regulating effect on glucose and insulin in humans.

A 2014 study investigated the effects of beetroot juice on blood glucose levels after eating.Wootton-Beard PC, et al. (2014). Effects of a beetroot juice with high neobetanin content on the early-phase insulin response in healthy volunteers. DOI: 10.1017/jns.2014.7 The study showed that drinking 225 milliliters, or a little less than a 1/2 cup, of beetroot juice resulted in a significant suppression of post-meal glucose levels.

Lower risk of chronic disease

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, foods that are high in antioxidants, such as beets, have been shown to be beneficial in preventing disease.Antioxidants: In depth. (2016).

Antioxidants help prevent disease by fighting free radicals that can damage cells. Cellular damage caused by free radicals is called oxidative stress, which has been linked to a number of serious diseases, including heart disease and cancer.

Beets contain up to 1.7 millimoles of antioxidants per 3.5 ounces, including a group of antioxidants called betalains, which are responsible for their reddish color.Carlsen MH, et al. (2010). The total antioxidant content of more than 3,100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide. DOI: 10.1186/1475-2891-9-3

They also contain other compounds that suppress inflammation, which has also been linked to serious medical conditions.

Lower risk of diabetes complications

Diabetes causes damage to your small blood vessels (microvascular) and larger blood vessels (macrovascular). This leads to complications that can affect the eyes, heart, kidneys, and other parts of the body.

Research shows that antioxidants, such as those found in beets, reduce the risk of diabetes complications, including:Bajaj S, et al. (2012). Antioxidants and diabetes.

Reduced insulin resistance

There’s some evidence that one of the metabolites found in high concentrations in beets may reduce insulin resistance.

The same metabolite is found in human blood levels, but is lower in people with insulin resistance, prediabetes, and cardiovascular risk factors than in healthy people.

According to a small 2017 study, obese participants who consumed beet juice with carbohydrates demonstrated lower insulin resistance than nonobese participants suggesting that obese individuals may benefit from consuming beets and other nitrate-rich foods.Beals JW, et al. (2017). Concurrent beet juice and carbohydrate ingestion: Influence on glucose tolerance in obese and nonobese adults. DOI: 10.1155/2017/6436783

An earlier study found that healthy participants who consumed beet juice during a meal had lower insulin and glucose responses following the meal.Wootton-Beard PC, et al. (2014). Effects of a beetroot juice with high neobetanin content on the early-phase insulin response in healthy volunteers. DOI: 10.1017/jns.2014.7 However, a 2013 study of 27 individuals with type 2 diabetes who drank beetroot juice daily found no improvement in insulin resistance.Gilchrist M, et al. (2013). Effect of dietary nitrate on blood pressure, endothelial function, and insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes. DOI: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2013.01.024

These studies involved a small number of participants, and more research is needed. It’s possible that reduced insulin resistance may be one of the benefits of eating beetroot and may potentially benefit individuals with diabetes

Lower blood pressure

High blood pressure is a common complication in people with diabetes. Research suggests that eating beets or drinking beetroot juice might lower blood pressure.

A 2013 study found that people with hypertension experienced a significant drop in blood pressure by drinking one cup of beetroot juice every day.Siervo M, et al. (2013). Inorganic nitrate and beetroot juice supplementation reduces blood pressure in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. DOI: 10.3945/jn.112.170233 Some people also experienced an improvement in the elasticity of their blood vessels.

Researchers believe the nitrates in beet juice are responsible for the effects and work by expanding blood vessels and improving blood flow. One cup of beetroot juice contains 100 calories and about 23 grams of carbohydrates.

Studies also found beetroot juice to significantly reduce systolic blood pressure levels.Siervo M, et al. (2013). Inorganic nitrate and beetroot juice supplementation reduces blood pressure in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. DOI: 10.3945/jn.112.170233 Systolic blood pressure measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats.

More recently, a randomized controlled trial found that nitrates in beetroot juice reduced central blood pressure in some people with type 2 diabetes.Mills CE, et al. (2017). Dietary nitrate from beetroot juice selectively reduces central blood pressure in type 2 diabetes: The randomized, controlled VaSera trial. DOI: 10.1017/S0029665117003706

There are no known risks to eating beetroot if you have diabetes. Eating beets is encouraged by the American Diabetes Association.Non-starchy vegetables. (2017).

Unless you’re allergic to beetroot, the only risk is beeturia. This causes urine or stools to appear pink or red. A small number of people experience beeturia after consuming beetroot.

While it can be alarming, beeturia isn’t usually harmful. It’s caused by one of the compounds in beets that gives the vegetable its color, and it usually clears up on its own.

Beets are incredibly versatile and can be used to add color, flavor, and crunch to a number of dishes and beverages. You can use beets in salads, stews, casseroles, and smoothies.

Don’t forget to use the greens, which are packed with nutrients and eaten the same way you would spinach or kale. One 2-inch beetroot contains about 8 grams of carbohydrates.

adding beetroot to your diet

Here are some ways to include beets in your diet:

  • Cut slices or shave ribbons of raw beetroot and add to salads for extra color and crunch.
  • Steam them with other vegetables for a delicious and healthy side dish.
  • Roast beets in the oven. Then slice them up for side dish, or add them to salads or omelets.
  • Juice beets and experiment by combining them with other vegetables and fruits, like apples and carrots.

Try one of these delicious recipes for more ways to add beetroot to your diet.

Buy fresh beetroot with the greens intact. Look for beets that are firm, smooth, and a bright red-purple color.

With the greens intact, you can store beetroot in the fridge for three or four days. Without the greens, beets can last in the fridge for two to four weeks.

Beetroot is rich in antioxidants and nutrients that have proven health benefits for everyone.

Consuming beets appears to be especially beneficial for people with diabetes. Beets lower the risk of common diabetes complications, including nerve damage and eye damage.

They’re also versatile, delicious, and easy to include in all kinds of recipes.