Beetroot is nutritious and may have some influence on blood sugar regulation, diabetes complications, and the risk of chronic disease.

Beets have been used for centuries to treat a number of conditions, from constipation to fever.

These jewel-colored root vegetables are often referred to as a superfood. Beetroot is full of folates, potassium, and other nutrients that are good for your health in general. But research suggests 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 health benefits of beets, including the positive effects of beets for people with diabetes.

Beets may help 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. The study found that drinking 225 milliliters of beetroot juice, or a little less than a 1/2 cup, resulted in a significant suppression of post-meal glucose levels.

However, it’s important to note that this study was done with participants who didn’t have diabetes. More research is needed that includes individuals with a diabetes diagnosis before definitive claims can be made.

Beets may lower the 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 help prevent disease by fighting free radicals, which are unstable molecules in your body that can damage cells.

Cellular damage caused by free radicals is called oxidative stress. This damage has been linked to a number of serious diseases, including heart disease and cancer.

According to one 2010 study, beets can contain up to 1.7 millimoles of antioxidants per 3.5 ounces. This includes a group of antioxidants called betalains, which are responsible for their reddish color.

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

Beets may lower the risk of diabetes complications

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

One 2016 study suggests that antioxidants, such as those found in beets, reduce oxidative stress and free radicals in the body. Fewer free radicals in the body mean a lower risk of diabetes complications, which can include:

Beets may help reduce insulin resistance

A metabolite is a substance that remains after your body metabolizes, or breaks down, food or other material. There’s some evidence that one of the metabolites found in high concentrations in beets — called a nitrate — may reduce insulin resistance.

The same metabolite is found in human blood levels, but it is lower in people with insulin resistance, prediabetes, and cardiovascular risk factors than in people who don’t have a diabetes diagnosis.

According to a small 2017 study, participants with obesity who consumed a mixture of beet juice and carbohydrates showed lower insulin resistance than participants without obesity. This suggests that individuals with obesity may benefit from eating beets and other nitrate-rich foods.

An earlier 2014 study found that healthy participants who consumed beet juice during a meal had lower insulin and glucose responses following the meal. However, a very small 2013 study had different results. 27 individuals with type 2 diabetes who drank beetroot juice daily showed no improvement in insulin resistance.

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, which could potentially benefit individuals with diabetes.

Beets may help 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 your blood pressure.

A 2013 study found that participants with hypertension who drank one cup of beetroot juice every day experienced a significant drop in blood pressure.Some participants also experienced an improvement in the elasticity of their blood vessels.

Researchers in the study suggested that nitrates in beet juice were responsible for the effects. They work by expanding blood vessels and improving blood flow.

This study also found that drinking beetroot juice was associated with reduced systolic blood pressure levels.Systolic blood pressure measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats.

More recently, a 2017 study found that nitrates in beetroot juice reduced central blood pressure in some people with type 2 diabetes. Central blood pressure is the pressure in your aorta — the large artery that sends blood away from your heart

There are no known risks to eating beetroot if you have diabetes. The American Diabetes Association encourages everyone to add more of these non-starchy vegetables to their diet.

Unless you’re allergic to beetroot, the only risk that comes with eating beets is beeturia. Beeturia is a condition that 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 eat spinach or kale. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, one beet contains about 7 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 a 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.

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

Beets are rich in antioxidants and nutrients that have proven health benefits for everyone.

Consuming beets appears to be especially beneficial for people living with diabetes. Beets can help lower the risk of complications that may arise from an unmanaged condition, including nerve damage and eye damage.

Beets are also versatile, delicious, and easy to include in all kinds of recipes.