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Beets are a popular, tasty, and versatile root vegetable that can be cooked in many ways and possess several health benefits. But have you heard about what fermented beets can do for you?
After beets undergo the fermentation process and are consumed, they serve many purposes for our body. Fermented beets have probiotics which aid gut health. They even have the ability to lower blood pressure and increase exercise endurance. Ultimately, this strikingly red-colored food has a lot to offer.
Benefits of Fermented Beets
Beetroots (beta vulgaris), or beets, are common root vegetables that are eaten in many dishes around the world. Beets are known to have several impressive health benefits. They are packed full of essential vitamins and minerals.
Beets are a great source of:
- Vitamin B9
- Vitamin C
Beetroot, either in solid or juice form, is highly beneficial for improving blood pressure. Beets may also be helpful in fighting inflammation, improving digestive health, and supporting brain health. Beets can be eaten raw or even pickled.
Fermentation has historically been used to produce foods and beverages like wine, beer, bread, cheese, and yogurt. Today we know fermented foods provide a wealth of health benefits and it’s why people are now dining on fermented beets. Fermentation is a way to process food that involves breaking down sugars with bacteria and yeast. This helps to preserve food.
Most foods are fermented in a process called lacto-fermentation. In the first phase, a salt brine kills off bad bacteria. Yeast converts sugar from grains into lactic acid during the second part of the fermentation process, and the leftover good bacteria is responsible for lacto-fermentation.
“Lacto” comes from a species of bacteria called Lactobacillus. This strain of bacteria is found in many plants, yogurts, and our own microbiome.
Eating fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, and beets can increase the amount of probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, in the gut. Pickled beets may have a similar effect. Fermented beets, in particular, come with several specific health benefits.
Fermented beetroot is a probiotic food that has live microorganisms that improve and restore gut flora. They have a direct relationship with immune function and digestion. Not having enough healthy bacteria can lead to digestive problems, skin issues, candida, and autoimmune disease.
Fermented beet juice is known as beet kvass and has been used as a European remedy for years — specifically in Russia and Ukraine. It is consumed as a traditional health tonic and added into food dishes. Traditionally, it has been used to treat conditions like fatigue, kidney stones, allergies, and digestive problems, as well as boost immune function.
One 2009 animal study on the effects of beetroot juice and how it relates to microflora suggests that fermented beetroot juice is beneficial to microbial activity. This means the detoxifying properties of fermented beets may be good for the gut, producing good bacteria and decreasing toxins.
2. Nitric Oxide
Beetroot and beetroot juice are very high in nitrates — which our bodies convert into nitric oxide. There is research that shows that nitrates have health benefits and can even lower blood pressure. We wrote an extensive article on nitric oxide supplements, their benefits, and the best ones to add to your daily routine.
Nitric oxide has the ability to relax and dilate blood vessels. This relaxation of vessels can lower blood pressure. This is a great benefit for anyone that deals with cardiovascular issues. Nitrates are a common therapy for those with congestive heart failure.
A glass of beetroot juice has shown to aid those dealing with hypertension. Hypertension increases people’s risk of heart disease, stroke, and death. Having a healthy level of nitric oxide in your body might provide measurable difference and help your ability to exercise.
In one particular study, participants were given beetroot juice while another group was given a placebo. The blood pressure of those in the test group was decreased much more than the placebo in a matter of minutes.
The researchers concluded:
“Nitrate-contained in beetroot juice lowered aortic systolic BP in normotensive individuals 30 min post-ingestion with minimal effects on brachial BP. This effect was of comparatively short duration and did not persist over 24-h. Previous studies only measuring brachial BP and not aortic BP may have underestimated the effects of inorganic nitrates on BP.”
3. Exercise Endurance
Beets may also help in boosting athletic performance. Athletes and active individuals may experience better endurance and a lower resting blood pressure when consuming fermented beets.
The nitrates and betalains in beets may improve performances by encouraging better blood flow to the muscles during high-intensity exercise. Beetroots may improve performance in running, stamina, and exercise in general.
A recent study on the effects of beetroot juice supplementation cardiorespiratory in on athletes states:
“The available results suggest that supplementation with beetroot juice can improve cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes by increasing efficiency, which improves performance at various distances, increases time to exhaustion at submaximal intensities, and may improve the cardiorespiratory performance at anaerobic threshold intensities and maximum oxygen uptake.”
Beets and beetroot juice have anti-inflammatory properties due to compounds called betalains.
Betalains are known to reduce the activity of inflammatory enzymes. The consumption of beets may be able to prevent or treat a number of inflammatory diseases, as well as heart disease. Research has also shown that betalains in beets also act as antioxidants and anti-cancer agents.
5. Increased Bioavailability
Another benefit of fermenting beets is that bioavailability is increased during the fermentation process. The process breaks down harder to digest compounds, making the full benefits of the compounds more accessible to your body.
Bioavailability is a term typically used in pharmacology and means the degree and the rate a substance is absorbed. When beets are fermented, they may become easier to absorb and digest, which is another perk alongside the beneficial bacteria and enzymes that beets give us.
Best Ways to Ferment Beets
When creating kvass, raw beets can be cut into chunks, shredded, chopped, or grated. Grating beets may release too much sugar, as they already have a high sugar content. Sugar and fermentation can lead to alcohol, such as beet wine.
Organic, fresh beets are preferred. Himalayan sea salt can be used for the brine. It is important to never use iodized salt and avoid chlorine in the water you use to brine. Choosing the right equipment for the fermentation process is important. A quality chopping knife, glass mason jars, and airlock lids are among some of the essentials.
Glass jars are recommended because they do not contain the harmful chemical BPA. Air-tight lids keep beets away from oxygen and reduces the chances of mold forming. A food processor may be used if necessary.
It may be helpful to ferment your beets in small quantities with other vegetables. Combining with cabbage and turnips may help encourage more probiotics and enzymes. The beets can be mixed with spices and herbs as well.
Once the kvass is created, the beets can be separated from the kvass by straining and each can be consumed separately, if preferred. Both products should be sealed and refrigerated when finished.
Beet Kvass Recipe
There are so many different kvass recipes for fermented beets on the internet, so feel free to experiment until you find your favorite. Beets can be seasoned to your liking.
This simple base recipe gives a better idea of how to make kvass from beets and is a good starting point for those interested in pursuing fermentation.
- 3 average size organic beets
- ¼ cup whey or sauerkraut juice
- 1.5 tablespoons of salt — preferably Celtic sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
- Filtered water (no chlorinated tap water)
- Wash beets well (get all the dirt off)
- Chop beets into small cubes (We prefer not to grate)
- Put beets in an X-large glass jar (½ gallon is best)
- Add salt
- Add sauerkraut juice or whey
- Fill the jar with filtered (unchlorinated) water.
- Cover the jar with a towel, cheesecloth, or lid. (Do not seal the jar by tightening down the lid, because the pressure might build and break your jar.)
- Leave the jar on the counter at room temperature for 2-3 days to ferment.
- Transfer to refrigerator and consume as desired.
This recipe will make around 8 cups of kvass. Prep time is about 5 minutes.
Side Effects of Fermented Beets
There are some side effects of beets that you may want to look out for. Beets can cause kidney stones, because they are rich in oxalates. According to Harvard Health, beets, along with chocolate, spinach, rhubarb, and nuts are considered stone-forming foods. If an individual has had kidney stones before, they should reduce the consumption of beets.
Beets can sometimes make urine or stool turn pink or red. This is called beeturia. Beetroot’s pigment is very bright and vivid. The extent of this symptom depends on the color of the beet or beet juice you ingested, as well as the amount that was consumed. Eating cooked beets may make your urine a lighter pink or red color.
Because beets are a vegetable that contains oxalates, beetroot may cause or worsen gout. Gout is a very painful form of inflammatory arthritis. Eating fermented beets may cause gout flare ups and should be avoided if that is a concern for individuals.
- Beetroot, or beets, have been a popular vegetable throughout history, offering several essential vitamins and minerals.
- The lacto-fermentation process has been used for years and helps to convert the sugars in beets to good bacteria called lactic acid.
- Fermented beets are a great probiotic food, packed full with microorganisms that help to restore gut flora.
- Beets are high in nitrates. Our bodies convert them to nitric oxide that can dilate blood vessels, which potentially lowers high blood pressure.
- Beets also have anti-inflammatory properties, and therefore the consumption of them may help treat highly inflammatory diseases like arthritis.
- Eating fermented beets may increase bioavailability in the body. After the fermentation process, beets are broken down and easier to digest.
- Using organic ingredients and the correct tools to ferment beets is encouraged, though you may choose how to cut and season them.
- Side effects of the consumption of beets include greater risk for kidney stones, beeturia or discolored urine and stool, and increased possibility of a gout flare up.