Two cups of beet juice increases blood flow to critical areas of the brain, research finds.
Consuming beets (beetroots) causes blood to flow more strongly to brain regions involved in the emotions, memory, language and judgement.
Beets may help to combat brain aging.
The beneficial effect comes from the high concentrations of nitrates.
Bacteria in the mouth turn these into nitrites, which help to open up blood vessels in the body.
This increases blood flow and oxygen in the brain.
Other foods that are high in nitrates include celery, cabbage and leafy green vegetables like spinach.
The conclusions come from a study of 14 people over 70-years-old.
They were given either a high or low-nitrate diet and brain scans examined the blood flow in their frontal lobes.
The high nitrate meal included 16 ounces of beet juice — or roughly two cups.
Daniel Kim-Shapiro, study co-author, said:
“There have been several very high-profile studies showing that drinking beet juice can lower blood pressure, but we wanted to show that drinking beet juice also increases perfusion, or blood flow, to the brain.
There are areas in the brain that become poorly perfused as you age, and that’s believed to be associated with dementia and poor cognition.”
The white matter in the frontal lobes is typically damaged in dementia.
Dr Gary Miller, study co-author, said:
“I think these results are consistent and encouraging — that good diet consisting of a lot of fruits and vegetables can contribute to overall good health.”
The study was published in the journal Nitric Oxide (Presley et al., 2010).