Researchers found that drinking beetroot juice helped athletes to excel in their field and perform better.Annie Mole/Flickr

Beetroot is good for athletes and heart patients, according to a new study.

Researchers found that drinking beetroot juice helped athletes to excel in their field and perform better.

The researchers based their findings on a 2013 study that linked consumption of beetroot juice to improved blood flow in skeletal muscles. David Poole and colleagues from the Kansas State University in the US also identified the key ingredient in beetroot that provided these qualities- nitrate.

Beetroot is high in nitrate. A 70- millilitre beetroot juice contains as much nitrate as provided by 100 grams of spinach.

Additionally, they also attributed victory of Auburn University football team to their habit of drinking beetroot juice before each game.

In the new study, researchers identified the actual mechanism underlying this whole process. They found that beetroot juice improved blood flow to "fast-twitch muscle fibers," or those muscles needed for explosive running, by 38%.

"When consumed, nitrate is reduced in the mouth by bacteria into nitrite," researcher Scott Ferguson, doctoral student in anatomy and physiology, said in a news release. "The nitrite is swallowed again and then reduced to nitric oxide, which is a potent vasodilator. The nitric oxide dilates the blood vessels, similar to turning on a water faucet, and allows blood to go where it needs to go."

Researchers expected that their findings will help improve life of people affected with heart failure. "Heart failure is a disease where oxygen delivery to particular tissues, especially working skeletal muscles, is impaired, decreasing the capacity to move the arms or legs and be physically active," Poole, professor of exercise kinesiology and anatomy and physiology at Kansas State University, said.

"The best therapy for these patients is getting up and moving around. However, that is often difficult. Increasing the oxygen delivery to these muscles through beetroot can provide a therapeutic avenue to improve the quality of life for these patients."

The new study has been reported in Journal of Nitric Oxide, Biology and Chemistry.

Beetroot can be viewed as a superfood as it is rich in manganese, potassium and fibre. Its leaves, according to BBC good food, also are good sources of iron, calcium and vitamin A and C.

Following are some other health benefits of beetroot as provided by Net Doctor UK and

  • Boosts digestion
  • Helps lower blood pressure and protect heart
  • Fights cancer
  • Good for hair and skin
  • Improves stamina
  • Good for keeping liver healthy
  • Reduces risk of birth defects including spina bifida- caused by folate deficiency