There are a lot of superfoods we’re loading up on these days. Turmeric, berries, and chia seeds, to name a few.

Well, here’s one more plant-based food that emerges from underground to nourish our body with goodness: The humble yet mighty beet. So what exactly makes beets so good for you? To start, they’re a low-calorie, good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, says Megan Wong, Registered Dietitian working with AlgaeCal. “Both help with digestive health and soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol as well,” she continues (and fiber is also a boon for weight loss since it keeps you feeling full for longer).

“While many people feel intimidated by beets, they are actually very easy to cook with and provide substantial nutrient benefits. [In addition to being high in fiber with nearly four grams per cup and offering a small amount of protein,] beets also have micronutrients, like folate, manganese, and potassium,” adds Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN, Creator of Bucket List Tummy. “Manganese is involved in several enzymatic reactions in the body, and potassium is important in reducing blood pressure. Beet greens are also high in vitamin K, iron, magnesium, and several anti-inflammatory antioxidants.”

Beyond their basic nutrition profile, beets have a slew of amazing qualities that can help promote good health, especially as part of a whole-food, plant-based diet. Below, five of the reasons we’re singing beets’ sweet praises.

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1. Beets protect your heart

“Beets are rich in inorganic nitrate, which gets converted into nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, meaning it widens and relaxes blood vessels  — which improves blood flow and reduces blood pressure,” comments Wong, reminding us all of the importance of incorporating plants that boost nitrite oxide into our diets

Echoing Wong’s words, Schlichter further comments, “Because of their ability to help widen blood vessels, beets can also be great for heart health and have been linked to a decrease in blood pressure. In one small randomized control study, volunteers who drank 500mL of beetroot juice experienced a substantial decrease in blood pressure.”

2. Beets may improve your workout — especially if you’re an endurance athlete

Another reason to load up on this nutrient-dense root veggie: Beets may boost your workout, and the scientific breakdown has to do with what we just discussed above. Here’s the nitty-gritty:

“Research shows that the nitrates in beetroot may be effective for improving exercise performance. By dilating blood vessels, blood flow is improved and muscles receive more oxygen and nutrients. And this means your muscles are better equipped with the resources needed for physical activity,” explains Wong. “This is likely why studies on beetroot and exercise show increased time to fatigue and better overall performance.”

For endurance athletes, beets may be particularly beneficial. “Beets are great foods for endurance athletes due to their nitrate content. Nitrate turns to nitric oxide in the body, and both can help enhance the flow of oxygen through blood vessels and even reduce the amount of oxygen that our muscles need. In other words, we can perform exercise more efficiently,” offers Schlichter.

3. Beets preserve eye health

“Beets provide two nutrients that are key to eye health: lutein and zeaxanthin. Part of the carotenoid family (along with vitamin A), these two nutrients work together to help maintain healthy vision with age, protect eyes from blue light exposure, and promote sharper vision,” says Wong. It’s safe to say during these extended quarantine days, we’ve all been overdoing it with the Parked in Front of a Computer or Staring at a TV Syndrome.

“Vegetable nitrates, such as those found in beets, have also been linked to reduced risk of early age-related macular degeneration,” she adds, pointing to this research.

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4. Beets reduce inflammation

Want to lower your risk of disease? Eat to fight inflammation, science says.

“Beets are high in betalains, phytonutrients with antioxidant properties. These properties help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress (free radicals) in the body, which can help manage or reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as cancer, liver disease, and atherosclerosis,” says Schlichter, referencing this scientific review. For more amazing anti-inflammatory foods, check out this article.

5. Beets may help keep your brain healthy

“While more research is needed, it’s possible that beets can support cognitive health by increasing blood flow to the brain,” comments Wong. “In one study looking at older adults, a high nitrate diet (which included two cups of beet juice in the morning) was linked to increased blood flow in an area of the brain that’s crucial to working memory.”

As we’ve previously reported, research also shows that beet juice could stop cancer cells as they form. Talk about a super-drink!

For all these reasons and more, it’s safe to say we’re head over heels, ahem, roots under soil, for this incredible veggie. Pass the roasted beetroot dip, please.

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