Beet JuiceBy Bob Condor

Juice bar entrepreneurs are still, well, juiced about the London School of Medicine study published earlier this year showing beet juice can significantly lower blood pressure.

“I use beetroot—it is a root vegetable, you know that, right?—in all of our mixed veggie drinks,” said the woman who operates a health food café and herbal supplement shop in a nearby town, a bandana holding back her shock of blond hair. “But, honestly, I don’t overdo with the beet juice because it is potent stuff.”

Insightful point and another reminder that plants are strong medicine. An experienced juicer knows the raw-foods lore that beets have the potential to over-stimulate the cardiovascular system if not cut with, say, apples and celery.

The London researchers would dispute that concern, since their report, published in February in the esteemed Hypertension journal, indicated that drinking 17 ounces of freshly pressed beetroot juice each day will reduce blood pressure in healthy volunteers within one hour of downing the drink. The blood pressure drop maxed out after about three to four hours, but some degree of lower blood pressure was evident up to a whole day after the beetroot cocktail. There were no stated worries among the research about over-stimulating the cardio system.

Perhaps most impressive about the British study is the researchers detailed how the beet juice is so effective. Beets are high in dietary nitrate, which converts into usable nitrate or nitric oxide in the body. Nitrate and nitric oxide are widely recognized by medical researchers as successful and natural chemicals that fight against hypertension; you can Google recent references in the New England Journal of Medicine. Other veggies high in dietary nitrate are cabbage, spinach and radishes, plus most leafy green vegetables offer up a good supply.

Professor Amrita Ahluwalia of the London School of Medicine explains that dietary nitrate converts into usable and healthy nitrate as soon as that beet juice or veggies hit your taste buds. Saliva and “good” bacteria on the tongue produces the switchover and then simply swallowing sends the nitrate to the stomach. There some of it converts once again into nitric acid that stomach needs and the rest enters the bloodstream.

Somehow Ahluwalia and her colleagues figured out a way for the second experimental group in their study to not swallow their saliva after ingesting beet juice. Remarkably, those individuals experienced no reduction in blood pressure.

High blood pressure or hypertension is more than your doctor worrying about a couple of numbers. It’s estimated high blood pressure causes about half of all heart attacks and roughly 75 percent of strokes. Doing what we can naturally—and the list is formidable—is your best form of protection.

“Bob Condor is the Daily Health Blogger for Barton Publishing. He is also the Living Well columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He covers natural health and quality of life issues and writes regularly for national magazines, including Life, Esquire, Parade, Self, and Outside. He is a former syndicated health columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of six books, including “The Good Mood Diet” and “Your Prostate Cancer Survivors’ Guide.” He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two 11-year-old kids.”