Beet Juice May Boost Muscle Strength in Heart Failure Patients
Nitrates in beet juice are among its many benefits. Research suggests it may help improve exercise tolerance in individuals with heart failure.
A diet packed with fruits and vegetables is always recommended for heart patients. The vitamins, fiber, antioxidants and other nutrients can improve arterial health, control cholesterol, bolster the immune system, and provide other benefits.
A small study, published recently in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Heart Failure, suggests that drinking concentrated beet juice may help improve muscle strength in patients with heart failure. The researchers believe that the high nitrate content in beet juice is the main reason for this apparent boost in muscle power. Other foods high in nitrates include leafy greens, carrots, and celery.
The same effects may be possible after eating beets, but dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, with the Preventive Cardiology Nutrition Program at Cleveland Clinic, notes that juicing beets and other vegetables and fruits can be a more convenient way to get valuable nutrients into your diet.
“Juicing concentrates the nutrients,” she says. “Therefore, you can get a larger volume in a smaller portion but beets do provide the same nutrients although you would have to eat the amount of beets that you would juice.”
Nitrates for Health
The health benefits of dietary nitrate intake, especially from beet juice, has been the focus of many previous studies. Elite athletes have been shown to improve performance after increasing their consumption of beet juice.
In this most recent study, researchers gave nine patients concentrated beet juice and later measured their muscular strength in exercises involving the large muscles of the leg. The patients showed noticeable improvement without any negative side effects. This finding was encouraging because people with heart failure often lack the strength to do ordinary activities, such as climbing stairs or lifting groceries.
Dietary nitrates are converted by the body into nitric oxide, which helps dilate blood vessels and improve metabolism. Zumpano says that while vegetables such as beets can be an important part of a heart-healthy diet, it’s too early to base specific recommendations on the findings of this study.
Managing Heart Failure
Muscle mass and muscle strength tend to decline as we age. That weakening is made worse if you have heart failure. That’s because a heart that has also weakened cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Heart failure patients tend to tire more easily and lack the strength to carry out many everyday functions because their muscles aren’t getting an optimal supply of oxygenated blood.
Though exercise is more challenging for these patients, and should be done in a supervised manner (at least early on after a heart failure diagnosis), physical activity is important to help preserve function and independence.
Another key to heart failure management is maintaining a proper diet.
“Eat a balanced diet and vary your choices of fruits and vegetables,” Zumpano says. “Include choices in every color, for those fruits and vegetables with similar colors provide similar nutrients.”