Can beetroot juice be used as a natural remedy for athletes with anemia? Potentially! Although more research is needed to support this claim.
While beet juice may not be the first-line treatment, beets are packed with nutrients that can help to prevent anemia!
Anemia is a common concern for athletes, especially female athletes, vegetarian athletes, and vegan athletes. This condition leads to fatigue, reduced endurance, and diminished athletic performance.
Beetroot juice to the rescue! Packed with essential nutrients and renowned for its rich iron content; beetroot juice offers potential benefits for combating anemia and enhancing athletic performance.
In this article, we dive into the potential advantages of incorporating beetroot into the diet of athletes with anemia, explore the nutritional benefits, and provide practical recommendations for adding beetroot to your diet.
Join us to discover how beetroot juice may become your go-to solution for preventing anemia and maximizing athletic performance.
Table of Contents
What is beetroot?
Beetroots are often referred to as “beets.” This root vegetable has a deep reddish-magenta color and an earthy flavor.
Beetroot can be enjoyed raw, roasted, steamed, spoiled, pickled, juice, or in powder form. Learn more about the difference between Beet Juice vs Beet Powder on the blog.
This nutrient-packed vegetable can be used to enhance performance and boost daily iron consumption.
What is iron?
Iron is a trace mineral that plays a critical role in the body.
One of iron’s main roles is to produce hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells. This protein carries oxygen through the blood.
Therefore, iron plays a vital role in the transportation of oxygen within your bloodstream. Insufficient intake of iron over an extended period can significantly impact your muscle function, training capacity, and overall athletic performance.
In more severe cases, it can even result in the development of iron deficiency anemia, a condition that may require medical intervention and several months to resolve.
Check out our blog post Iron Rich Foods For Athletes to learn about foods aside from beetroot to help you incorporate more iron into your diet to combat anemia.
How much iron do I need?
|Age Group||Male||Female||Athlete (Male)||Athlete (Female)|
|9-13 years||8 mg||8 mg||–||–|
|14-18 years||11 mg||15 mg||8-11 mg||15-18 mg|
|19 years +||8 mg||18 mg||8-11mg||15-18mg|
Keep in mind that women have increased iron needs due to menstrual blood loss. Women who are pregnant or lactating have higher needs than the needs listed above. Follow up with your healthcare provider for more personalized iron recommendations if you have anemia or celiac disease which can cause lead to decreased iron absorption.
What is iron-deficiency anemia?
Iron deficiency anemia is characterized by low red blood cell count or low hemoglobin levels due to a lack of iron intake or iron absorption issues in the gut.
If an athlete is not consuming enough iron or their body is having difficulties absorbing iron this can result in a lack of hemoglobin production. Which can be detrimental for athletes since hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body!
Signs of anemia
There are many signs and symptoms of anemia, here are some of the most common to look out for in athletes:
- Weakness and fatigue
- Decreased endurance
- Shortness of breath
- Increased heart rate
- A decline in athletic performance
- Pale skin and nail beds
- Dizzy or lightheaded
- Sensitivity to cold
Nutrtion benefits of beetroot for anemia
For athletes that have anemia, here are 5 nutritional benefits of incorporating beetroot juice.
Beetroot contains iron necessary for hemoglobin production. Per the USDA nutrient database, 1 cup of beet juice provides about 0.80 milligrams (mg) of iron. This varies depending on the brand of beet juice.
This is a B vitamin that helps to make red blood cells and can help to prevent certain types of anemia. Folate and iron work together to keep blood cells healthy!
According to the USDA nutrient database, about 1 cup of beetroot juice is about 60 micrograms (mcg) of folate. This is about 15% of the recommended daily allowance of folate for adults. Keep in mind that women who are pregnant or lactating will need more folate.
3. Vitamin C
In addition to iron and folate beetroot contains vitamin C! Vitamin C enhances iron absorption!
It is especially important to combine plant-based sources of iron called non-heme iron with vitamin C to help promote iron absorption. (1) Thankfully, with beetroot you get all these nutrients in one.
Beets contain an antioxidant called betalains which have demonstrated many potential health benefits such as protecting from cancer, reducing inflammation, and increasing the body’s ability to neutralize free-radical in the body to prevent disease. (4)
5. Nitric Oxide
Beetroot juice is rich in nitrates which are turned into nitric oxide in the body.
Nitric oxide can help improve blood flow and circulation which can help in the transportation absorption of both iron and oxygen throughout the body.
Beetroot juice has been shown to have positive effects on exercise performance including increased time to exhaustion, improved endurance, and reduced fatigue! (5)
Incorporating beetroot into your diet
Here are 8 ways in addition to beetroot juice that you can incorporate more beetroot in your diet to prevent anemia.
- Roasted Beet Salad: Roast beetroots in the oven, slice them and toss them with mixed greens, crumbled feta cheese, and a balsamic vinaigrette.
- Beetroot Smoothie: Blend cooked beetroot with your favorite fruits, such as berries or bananas, along with some yogurt or milk for a nutritious and colorful smoothie.
- Beetroot Hummus: Add cooked beetroots to your homemade hummus recipe for a vibrant twist. Serve it as a dip with pita bread or raw vegetables.
- Beetroot Chips: Slice raw beetroots thinly using a mandoline slicer, toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake them in the oven until crispy.
- Beetroot Stir-Fry: Sauté sliced beetroots along with other vegetables like bell peppers, carrots, and snow peas. Season with soy sauce or your preferred stir-fry sauce.
- Beetroot Juice: Extract the juice of raw beetroots using a juicer and enjoy it as a refreshing drink on its own or mix it with other fruit juices.
- Beetroot Slaw: Shred raw beetroots and mix them with shredded cabbage, carrots, and a tangy dressing for a colorful and nutritious slaw.
- Beetroot Pasta: Puree-cooked beetroots and mix them into your favorite pasta sauce for a vibrant and flavorful twist. Serve it over your preferred pasta.
If your goal is to prevent anemia with beetroot juice, be sure to space your calcium intake from your beetroot consumption. Foods rich in calcium such as dairy and leafy greens decrease the absorption of iron.
Caffeine and calcium both interfere with iron absorption so wait at least 1-2 hours after consuming your iron supplement or beetroot before enjoying coffee or a glass of milk.
If you are susceptible to kidney stones we do not recommend increasing your iron intake through beetroot because beetroot is high in oxalates. Foods high in oxalates contribute to kidney stone formation. Oxalates may also inhibit iron absorption.
We also recommend using caution with beetroot if you are on blood thinners such as Warfarin (coumadin) as they are high in vitamin K. The high vitamin K content can interfere with the effectiveness of your medication.
Consult with your healthcare professional if you have questions or concerns about incorporating beetroot into your diet.
While research has supported that beetroot may be a useful treatment for the prevention of anemia more research is needed to determine the efficacy and dose of beetroot juice for the treatment of anemia. (6, 7)
Beetroot juice offers many nutrition benefits including iron, folate, vitamin C, antioxidants, and nitric oxide, making it a valuable addition to the diet of athletes seeking to combat anemia and enhance their athletic performance.
With its numerous advantages, beetroot juice holds the potential to become a go-to solution for athletes looking to prevent anemia and maximize their athletic potential.
Start harnessing the power of beetroot juice today and unlock the benefits it offers for your overall well-being and athletic performance.
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Katie Schimmelpfenning RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, USA Swim Coach, and former Division 1 swimmer. She helps competitive swimmers fuel and train to optimize performance, recover faster, and prevent injury! She is passionate about spreading evidence-based nutrtion tips to help swimmers across the globe.