Adding beets to your diet may help improve your athletic performance and lower your risk for heart disease and cancer. Toss cooked or raw beets into a salad, make soup with them, add them to smoothies, or thinly slice them and make beet chips in the oven. While all beets provide essential nutrients, you'll get the most health benefits from red beets due to the beneficial plant chemicals that give them their color. Some people wind up with red urine after they eat beets, but this is harmless.
Provide Vitamins and Minerals
A cup of raw beets provides only 58 calories, but you'll also take in about 4 grams of fiber, or 15 percent of the daily value. Fiber helps you feel full after a meal. It can also lower your risk of heart disease and slow the rise in blood sugar after you eat. Each serving of beets has 11 percent of the daily value (DV) for vitamin C and 22 percent of the DV for manganese, both of which help heal wounds and act as antioxidants in each serving of beets, and 37 percent of the DV for folate, which is important for cell division and preventing birth defects. Beets also provide 13 percent of the DV for potassium per cup. Potassium helps support proper nerve, heart and muscle function.
Improve Running Performance
Beets are a source of nitrates. While nitrates from nonvegetable sources may have adverse effects, they may be beneficial when they come from vegetables, notes a study published in the "Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics" in April 2012. Study participants who ate beets before running 5 kilometers on the treadmill improved their running performance, running faster than they did when they consumed a placebo. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating approximately 7 ounces of nitrate-rich vegetables, such as beets, about an hour before you exercise.
Lower Blood Pressure
The nitrates in beets may also help lower your blood pressure and your risk of heart disease, according to a study published in "Hypertension" in 2008, which found that volunteers who drank beet juice experienced decreases in their blood pressure levels. This study used healthy volunteers, so further studies using people with high blood pressure or heart disease are needed to verify these potential benefits.
Lower Cancer Risk
Beets get their red color from beneficial plant chemicals called betalains. At least one types of betalain, called betanin, may help kill cancer cells, according to a study published in "Anti-Cancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry" in March 2011. These red beet pigments may also increase an enzyme that helps get rid of cancer-causing substances, thus helping to prevent cancer, according to a December 2002 article posted on the "University of Wisconsin-Madison News" website. A December 2002 article on the BBC website notes that beets also increase antioxidant levels and white blood cells -- both may further lower your risk for cancer.