7 Proven Benefits of Beets For Diabetes You Must Know

Beets for diabetes may sound like a simple pairing, but the truth behind it is quite profound. If you’re managing diabetes, you already know how crucial your diet choices are. Among the numerous foods you come across, beets stand out for their unique benefits. These vibrant root vegetables are more than just a splash of color on your plate; they are packed with nutrients essential for your health. Let’s explore how this humble vegetable can play a pivotal role in managing your diabetes effectively.

beets for diabetes.
Beets for diabetes.

Find Your Daily Calorie Intake To Manage Diabetes

Nutritional Profile of Beets

Beets are a nutritional powerhouse, especially beneficial for individuals managing diabetes. First and foremost, beets are really low in calories. This is great news if you’re watching your weight, a crucial aspect of diabetes management. Despite their low calorie count, beets are loaded with essential nutrients. They are a rich source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, folate, and potassium. These nutrients are key to maintaining overall health and aiding in the management of diabetes.

100 grams of boiled beets have the following nutritional content:

  • Calories: 44 kcal
  • Protein: 1.7 g
  • Fat: 0.2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 10.0 g
  • Fiber: 2.0 g
  • Potassium: 305 mg
  • Folate: 109 mcg
  • Iron: 0.79 mg

This nutritional breakdown shows that boiled beetroot is a low-calorie food rich in essential nutrients, making it a beneficial choice for individuals with diabetes. ​​

Beets Help Regulate Blood Sugar Levels

Understanding how foods affect your blood sugar is crucial to diabetes management. Beets, with their unique composition, have a surprisingly beneficial impact on blood sugar levels. Let’s delve into how this works:

  • Low Glycemic Index: Despite their natural sweetness, beets have a low glycemic index (GI). This means they cause a slower, more gradual rise in blood sugar levels, unlike high-GI foods that can lead to rapid spikes. For you, this translates to better blood sugar control and fewer surprises.
  • Balanced Sugar Absorption: The natural sugars in beets are balanced with a high fiber content. This fiber slows down the release of sugar into your bloodstream, preventing sudden spikes in blood sugar and aiding in long-term glucose management.
  • Influencing Insulin Sensitivity: Insulin resistance is a key factor in diabetes, especially type 2. It’s when your body doesn’t respond well to insulin, making blood sugar management a challenge. But here’s some good news: beets might offer a helping hand in improving insulin resistance. The nutrients in beets, particularly their high antioxidant content, have been linked to improved insulin sensitivity. Beets contain betanin, a powerful antioxidant that helps lower oxidative stress and may improve the insulin response.

Beets Are High in Dietary Fiber

Dietary fiber plays a crucial role in managing diabetes, and beets are a great source of it. Let’s explore why fiber is so important, especially for those with diabetes, and how beets fit into this picture:

  • Fiber and Blood Sugar Control: One of the key challenges in managing diabetes is keeping blood sugar levels stable. Fiber, particularly the soluble type found in beets, slows down the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream. This helps prevent rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, making it easier to manage your diabetes.
  • Digestive Health Benefits: Apart from blood sugar regulation, fiber is essential for good digestive health. It adds bulk to your diet, which helps with regular bowel movements and prevents constipation, a common issue in people with diabetes due to certain medications or lifestyle factors.
  • Gut Health and Overall Well-being: Fiber also plays a role in maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, which is crucial for overall health. A healthy gut can improve glucose metabolism and even help with better weight management, both important factors in diabetes management.
beets for diabetes - roasted.
Person with diabetes eating roated beets

Beets Contain Potent Antioxidants for Overall Health

Antioxidants are key players in maintaining good health, especially for those managing diabetes. Beets are rich in these compounds, offering numerous benefits. Here’s a closer look at the antioxidants in beets and why they are important:

Antioxidants are substances that can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals, which are unstable molecules that the body produces as a reaction to environmental and other pressures. For people with diabetes, higher levels of oxidative stress due to prolonged high blood sugar can lead to cell damage.

  • Antioxidants in Diabetes Management: Antioxidants play a vital role in reducing oxidative stress, a common issue in diabetes. They help protect cells from damage, which is crucial in preventing long-term complications associated with diabetes, such as heart disease, nerve damage, and kidney problems.
  • Types of Antioxidants in Beets: Beets are particularly high in a group of antioxidants known as betalains, which give them their distinct red color. Betalains have been shown to have strong anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties. They are particularly effective in fighting oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which are common in diabetes.
  • Additional Antioxidant Nutrients: Besides betalains, beets are also a good source of other antioxidants like vitamin C, manganese, and flavonoids. These compounds work together to enhance the antioxidant defense system in your body.
  • Overall Health Benefits: The combined effect of these antioxidants goes beyond just managing diabetes. They contribute to better heart health, reduced inflammation, and enhanced immune function. This is particularly important for people with diabetes, as they have a higher risk of developing additional health issues.

Beets Support Healthy Blood Pressure Levels

For individuals with diabetes, managing blood pressure is as crucial as controlling blood sugar levels. Many people with diabetes also struggle with hypertension. High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels over time, leading to increased blood pressure. This dual burden significantly elevates the risk of cardiovascular disease.

  • Role of Nitrates: Beets offer a natural way to support healthy blood pressure levels, thanks to their nitrate content. Beets are rich in dietary nitrates, which are converted into nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, meaning it helps relax and widen your blood vessels. This improves blood flow and, consequently, reduces blood pressure.

Beets Enhance Exercise Performance

Importance of Physical Activity in Diabetes: Regular physical activity is essential for people with diabetes. It helps improve insulin sensitivity, aids in blood sugar regulation, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Interestingly, beets can enhance exercise performance, making your workouts more effective. Here’s how this works:

  • Beets and Improved Exercise Performance: Beets contain high levels of dietary nitrates, which, as mentioned earlier, are converted to nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide improves blood flow, not just lowering blood pressure but also enhancing oxygen delivery to muscles. This improved oxygenation can significantly boost exercise performance.
  • Enhanced Endurance and Stamina: The enhanced blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscles make it easier to engage in physical activities, especially endurance exercises like walking, cycling, or swimming. This can be a game-changer for many people with diabetes, who often need to improve their physical activity levels for better health outcomes.

Beets Have Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Chronic inflammation is linked to a range of diabetes-related complications, including heart disease, neuropathy, and retinopathy. Prolonged high blood sugar levels can lead to increased inflammation, worsening these conditions. Thankfully, beets possess natural anti-inflammatory properties that can be beneficial for individuals with diabetes. Let’s explore this aspect:

  • Beets as a Natural Anti-Inflammatory: Beets are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, notably betalains, which give them their vibrant color. These compounds help reduce inflammation in the body. By lowering inflammation, beets can potentially reduce the risk or severity of diabetes-related complications.
  • Betalains and Their Role: Betalains are a type of phytonutrient known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. They help in neutralizing free radicals and inhibiting inflammation-causing enzymes, thereby reducing inflammation at the cellular level.
  • Supporting Heart Health: The anti-inflammatory action of beets is particularly beneficial for heart health. Inflammation plays a role in atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), a common problem in diabetes. Regular consumption of beets can help maintain a healthier cardiovascular system.

beets for diabetes - chips.
Beet chips for diabetes

Beets Are Great For Kidney Health

Diabetes can lead to a condition called diabetic nephropathy, where the kidneys become damaged and unable to filter blood effectively. Maintaining kidney health is crucial for preventing this complication and ensuring overall well-being. Beets offer several benefits, including supporting kidney health and preventing nephropathy, a common complication of diabetes. Here’s how:

  • Detoxification Properties: Beets have natural detoxification properties that come from antioxidants and nutrients such as betalains, vitamin C, folate, and managnese. These antioxidants and nutrients help cleanse the kidneys and improve their function. This detoxifying effect helps keep harmful substances from building up in the kidneys, which can make kidney problems caused by diabetes worse.
  • Managing Blood Pressure: As discussed earlier, beets help in lowering blood pressure, which is not only good for heart health but also crucial for kidney health. High blood pressure can strain the kidneys, accelerating the progression of kidney disease in people with diabetes.

Side Effects And Interactions of Beets in Diabetic Diets

Incorporating beets into your diabetic diet can be both enjoyable and beneficial. Here are some practical tips and recipes to help you include this versatile vegetable in your meals:

  • Start Small: If you’re new to beets, start with small portions to see how your body reacts, especially in terms of blood sugar levels.
  • Choose Fresh or Cooked Beets: Fresh beets are great in salads, while cooked beets can be a delicious side dish. Avoid pickled beets, as they often contain added sugar and salt.
  • Beetroot Juice: A small glass of beetroot juice can be a quick way to enjoy the benefits of beets. Just be mindful of the portion size to avoid excessive sugar intake.
  • Salads and Smoothies: Grate raw beets into salads for a crunchy texture, or blend them into smoothies with other diabetes-friendly fruits and vegetables.
  • Roasting Beets: Roasting beets brings out their natural sweetness without needing any added sugars. Cut them into chunks, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and roast until tender.
  • Beetroot Soups: Beet soups, like borscht, can be a warming and nutritious meal. Make sure to use a recipe that’s low in sodium and sugar.
  • Snacks and Appetizers: Sliced beets make a great base for low-carb appetizers. Top them with a dollop of Greek yogurt and herbs for a healthy snack.
  • Incorporate into Main Dishes: Grated or diced beets can be added to stews and casseroles, giving these dishes a nutrient boost.
  • Monitor Portion Sizes: As with any food in a diabetic diet, it’s important to be mindful of portion sizes. Stick to the recommended amounts to keep your blood sugar levels in check.
  • Experiment with Recipes: Be creative and try different recipes to see which ones you enjoy the most. Beets are versatile and can be adapted to suit various cuisines and tastes.

Dietary Strategies: Incorporating Beets into a Diabetic Diet

A frequent and noticeable effect of consuming beets, particularly their juices and supplements, is the discoloration of urine to a pink or red hue. This change in urine color is called beeturia, a condition where your urine turns red or pink after consuming beets or foods and drinks containing beet extracts. This change in urine color is due to the presence of betalains, natural pigments found in beets. Not everyone experiences beeturia when they eat beets, as it depends on individual factors such as stomach acid levels and the absorption rate in the intestines. It’s generally a harmless condition and more of a curiosity than a cause for medical concern. 

Beets are high in potassium, which is generally good for overall health. Potassium is an essential mineral for regulating blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease. However, if you suffer from kidney disease, your doctor might recommend limiting your beets intake due to their high potassium content. This is because damaged kidneys may struggle to process potassium efficiently, potentially leading to an excessive buildup of this nutrient in the body. Such elevated potassium levels in individuals with kidney disease can increase the risk of a heart attack.

Beets For Diabetes: Key Takeaways

Beets are an exceptional addition to the diabetic diet, offering a multitude of health benefits. To summarize:

  • Blood Sugar Regulation: Due to their low glycemic index, beets can help regulate blood sugar levels, making them a smart choice for diabetes management.
  • Insulin Resistance: The nutrients in beets may improve insulin sensitivity, aiding in the effective management of blood sugar.
  • Cardiovascular Health: The nitrates in beets aid in lowering blood pressure and improving heart health, which is crucial for individuals with diabetes.
  • Rich in Nutrients: Beets are low in calories but high in essential nutrients, making them an excellent food for maintaining overall health without contributing to weight gain.
  • Dietary Fiber: The high fiber content in beets helps with digestive health and further aids in blood sugar management.
  • Antioxidant Properties: The antioxidants in beets combat oxidative stress and inflammation, contributing to reduced diabetes complications.
  • Exercise Performance: Beets can enhance exercise performance, supporting an active lifestyle, which is essential for diabetes management.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Benefits: Their anti-inflammatory properties help reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications.
  • Kidney Health: Beets support kidney function, which is particularly important for people with diabetes.
beets for diabetes - salad.
Beet salad for diabetes

What is the glycemic index of beets?

The glycemic index (GI) of beets is generally considered to be in the medium range. On the GI scale, which measures how quickly a food raises blood sugar levels, beets typically score around 61. It’s important to note that the GI can vary slightly depending on factors such as preparation and individual variances in the beets themselves. Despite having a medium GI, beets are still a valuable addition to a healthy diet due to their rich nutrient content, including fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. However, individuals who are closely managing their blood sugar levels, such as those with diabetes, may need to consider the portion size and frequency of consuming beets.

Golden beeets vs red beets

Golden beets and red beets are both nutritious and delicious, but they have some differences in terms of their nutritional profile, taste, and culinary uses:

Color and Pigments: The most obvious difference is their color. Red beets are deep purple-red, while golden beets are vibrant yellow-orange. The color difference is due to the types of pigments they contain. Red beets are rich in betacyanin pigments, whereas golden beets have betaxanthins.
Flavor: Golden beets tend to have a sweeter and milder flavor compared to red beets. They are less earthy and don’t have the strong, sometimes metallic aftertaste that red beets can have.
Staining: Red beets are known for their strong dyeing properties, which can stain hands, clothes, and cooking surfaces. Golden beets, in contrast, don’t stain as much, making them easier to handle in the kitchen.
Nutritional Differences: Both types of beets are low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. However, the different pigments in golden and red beets mean they offer different types of phytonutrients. For example, the betalains in red beets have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, while the betaxanthins in golden beets also offer antioxidant benefits, but with a different composition.

In summary, the choice between golden and red beets can be based on personal taste preferences, the desired aesthetic for dishes, and nutritional variety. Both are healthy additions to any diet.

Are beets high in iron?

Beets are often associated with iron content, which is an important nutrient for maintaining healthy blood cells and overall energy levels. Here are some key points about beets and iron:

Iron Content: Beets contain a moderate amount of iron. The iron in beets is non-heme iron, which is typically not as easily absorbed by the body as the heme iron found in animal products.
Enhancing Iron Absorption: Consuming beets with foods high in vitamin C can enhance the absorption of non-heme iron. Vitamin C converts iron into a form that is easier for the body to absorb. Adding a squeeze of lemon juice to a beet salad or combining beets with vegetables and fruits high in vitamin C can be beneficial.
Role in Blood Health: Iron is essential for the formation of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Regular consumption of iron-rich foods like beets can help prevent iron deficiency anemia, a condition characterized by tiredness and weakness.

Carbs in beets

In 100 grams of raw beets, there are approximately 9 to 10 grams of carbohydrates. This total carbohydrate content includes both the sugars (such as glucose and fructose) and dietary fiber found in beets.

Beets are a naturally sweet root vegetable that contains carbohydrates, an essential macronutrient that provides energy to the body. The carbohydrates in beets are primarily in the form of simple sugars like glucose and fructose, but they also contain dietary fiber. 

The fiber content in beets is beneficial for digestive health, helping to regulate bowel movements and contributing to a feeling of fullness, which can be helpful for weight management. Additionally, the presence of fiber in beets slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, helping to prevent rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. This attribute makes beets a favorable option even for people who are monitoring their carbohydrate intake, such as those with diabetes.

Despite their sweetness, beets have a relatively low glycemic index, meaning they have a more gradual effect on blood sugar compared to high glycemic foods. Beets’ carbohydrate content, coupled with their rich array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, makes them a nutritious choice for a balanced diet.

Beets can be enjoyed in various delicious and nutritious ways, fitting perfectly into a balanced diabetic diet. Beets could be a vibrant addition to your diet that not only brings color to your plate but also contributes to your health and well-being.

Archana Singh, PhD

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