Athletes may be on to something: drinking beetroot juice keeps blood vessels supple and reduces stress on the heart after an intense work-out.
Not that they thought that was the primary benefit. Beetroot juice has become the new power drink among athletes because they believed it improves blood flow to the muscles.
But when researchers from Penn State University tested the drink on a group of endurance athletes, they discovered the drink didn't encourage more blood flow or widen arteries.
However, the nitrates in the drink did 'relax' blood vessels and helped cells use oxygen more efficiently, so taking strain away from the heart, especially after exercise.
Beetroot and leafy green vegetables are a rich source of nitrates, which researchers say helps the body use oxygen more efficiently.
(Source: Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, 2014; 1: doi: 10.1139/apnm-2014-0228)