What happens if you eat beetroot raw?

Eating raw beetroot is generally considered safe and healthy. Beets contain a number of beneficial vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. However, there are some things to keep in mind when consuming raw beets.

Nutritional Benefits

Raw beets are packed with essential vitamins and minerals. Some of the top nutrients found in raw beets include:

  • Folate – Important for cell growth and development. Also helps prevent neural tube defects in babies.
  • Manganese – An antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage. Also aids in bone development and wound healing.
  • Potassium – Helps control fluid balance, nerve signaling and muscle contractions.
  • Vitamin C – An antioxidant that promotes immune health and iron absorption.
  • Magnesium – Plays a role in over 300 enzyme reactions in the body. Also contributes to muscle and nerve function.

Beets also contain antioxidants called betalains, which may exhibit anti-inflammatory, anticancer and detoxification activities in the body.

Betaine

Raw beets are particularly high in betaine, a compound that has been linked to several health benefits. Betaine may help reduce homocysteine levels, a marker associated with heart disease risk. Some studies also indicate betaine may benefit liver health.

Increased Antioxidant Intake

Cooking beets reduces their antioxidant content. Research shows that boiled beets retain only 60–70% of their antioxidants, compared to raw beets. This makes raw beets an excellent choice to boost antioxidant intake.

Easy to Add to Diet

Raw beets are simple to add to your diet. They can be grated or sliced and added to salads, sandwiches or wraps. Beet juice is also growing in popularity and provides an easy way to consume raw beets conveniently.

Potential Downsides of Eating Raw Beets

While raw beets provide great nutrition, there are some potential downsides:

Gastrointestinal Issues

Some people may experience gastrointestinal upset from eating raw beets, including diarrhea or vomiting. This seems to occur more often when consuming large quantities.

Kidney Stones

Raw beets are high in oxalates. For those prone to kidney stones, eating large amounts may increase kidney stone risk.

Messy Juice

Beet juice can be quite messy and stain hands, clothes and countertops. It’s best to take precautions when juicing beets.

Soil-Borne Bacteria

If beetroots are eaten raw, bacteria and contaminants from the soil may remain on the surface. Proper cleaning helps reduce this risk.

Allergic Reactions

Rarely, some people may experience allergic reactions from eating raw beets, including hives, itching and swelling.

Beet Allergies

Allergies to beets are not very common, but they can occur. Symptoms of a beet allergy may include:

  • Itching, tingling or swelling of the lips, tongue, mouth or throat
  • Hives, itching or skin rashes
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Tightness in the throat or trouble swallowing
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Runny nose or sneezing

Those who experience these reactions should avoid consuming raw beets and seek medical treatment if symptoms are severe.

Nutrient Absorption

Some nutrients in raw beets may not be as well absorbed compared to cooked beets. One study found that cooking increased carotenoid antioxidant absorption from beetroot juice by 15–25% compared to raw juice.

However, another study found the opposite — that raw beetroot juice provided increased carotenoid absorption over cooked juice. More research is needed on how cooking impacts beet nutrient absorption.

Oxalate Content

Raw beets contain oxalates, which bind to calcium and can contribute to kidney stone development. Those prone to kidney stones may want to limit raw beet consumption.

However, research is mixed on whether dietary oxalates actually increase kidney stone risk. One study found no link between oxalate intake and kidney stone development, while another reported that about 50 mg of oxalates per day increased stone risk.

Given this conflicting evidence, people concerned with oxalates should be cautious about overconsuming raw beets and monitor their individual response.

When Should You Avoid Raw Beets?

While raw beets are healthy for most people, some individuals should take precautions or avoid them altogether. Those who may want to avoid raw beets include:

  • Those with beet allergies
  • People prone to kidney stones
  • Those taking blood thinning medication
  • Individuals with low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria)

Pregnant women should also be mindful of portion sizes, as excess nitrates from beetroot juice may affect fetal development.

Beet Juice Nitrates

Raw beets, particularly beetroot juice, are high in nitrates. When consumed, nitrates are converted into nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and may benefit heart health and exercise performance.

However, there are some potential downsides to beetroot juice nitrates:

  • May interact with blood thinning medication
  • High doses may cause low blood pressure or diarrhea
  • Concerns around high nitrate intake in pregnant women and infants

Given these risks, it’s best to avoid overconsumption of beetroot juice and consult your healthcare provider if you take blood thinners.

Blood Thinning Medications

The nitrates in raw beets may interact with blood thinning medications, such as:

  • Warfarin (Coumadin)
  • Clopidogrel (Plavix)
  • Aspirin

Nitrates help dilate blood vessels, while these drugs work by reducing ability of the blood to clot. This combination could increase risk of bleeding.

Those taking any blood thinner should consult their healthcare provider prior to increasing beet intake.

Hypochlorhydria

Hypochlorhydria refers to low stomach acid production. This condition can reduce the body’s ability to kill off potentially harmful bacteria from raw vegetables.

Those with hypochlorhydria may want to take precautions around consuming raw beets, such as cleaning them very thoroughly or cooking before eating.

Oxalates and Kidney Stones

Beets contain soluble oxalate, which can contribute to kidney stone formation in susceptible individuals. Kidney stones from oxalates typically form in people who have too much oxalate and too little liquid.

Those prone to oxalate kidney stones should limit high-oxalate foods like raw beets. However, even for these individuals, small amounts are likely safe as part of a balanced diet.

Pregnant Women

Excessive nitrate levels may affect fetal development. While nitrates from whole beets are likely safe in normal food amounts, pregnant women should exercise caution with beetroot juice.

The daily acceptable nitrate intake level for pregnant women is much lower than the general population.

Pregnant women should limit beetroot juice intake to no more than one small glass per day as a precaution.

Can Babies Eat Raw Beets?

Raw beets are generally not recommended for babies. Potential concerns include:

  • Choking hazard from hard vegetable pieces
  • Harmful bacteria that could cause illness
  • Nitrate content that may exceed safe levels for infants

For these reasons, it is not advised to feed raw beets to babies under 12 months old. Cooked beets that have been pureed or mashed are safer options.

How to Reduce Raw Beet Side Effects

There are a few simple steps that can be taken to help minimize potential side effects from raw beets:

  • Consume only moderate amounts, about 1–2 raw beets per day
  • Thoroughly scrub beets to remove dirt and bacteria
  • Avoid raw beet juices if taking blood thinning medication
  • Drink adequate fluids to help flush out oxalates
  • Cook beets instead of consuming raw if you have hypochlorhydria

Checking with your healthcare provider can also help determine if raw beets are the right choice for your health status.

Precautions for Eating Raw Beets

Here are some key precautions to keep in mind when adding raw beets to your diet:

  • Consume only moderate portions to minimize nitrate exposure.
  • Thoroughly clean raw beets to reduce bacteria risk.
  • Introduce slowly to check for allergies or intolerances.
  • Avoid large amounts if you have kidney stones or take blood thinners.
  • Consult your healthcare provider if pregnant or breastfeeding.

Checking with your doctor can help determine whether raw beet consumption is appropriate for your individual health.

The Best Ways to Eat Raw Beets

Some of the most popular ways to enjoy raw beets include:

Raw Beet Salads

Beets pair well with leafy greens, nuts, cheese and citrus flavors. Grate raw beets and add to your favorite salad for color and nutrition.

Spiralized Beets

Use a spiralizer to slice beets into curly noodle shapes. These bright spirals work perfectly tossed into main dishes or as salad toppings.

Roasted Beets

Roasting concentrates the natural sweetness of beets. Roasted beets make great salad or sandwich toppings.

Raw Beet Juice

Juicing beets provides an easy way to consume them raw. Use alone or combine with carrots, oranges, ginger or apples.

Raw Beet Hummus

Blend chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice and grated raw beets for a colorful twist on traditional hummus.

Beet Wraps

Use raw beet greens in place of tortillas or bread. Fill with fresh veggies and dressing for a low carb wrap.

Shredded Beets

Shred raw beets and use similarly to shredded carrots. Try them atop grain bowls, tacos, nachos or soups.

Potential Health Benefits of Raw Beets

Some of the top potential health benefits associated with raw beet consumption include:

  • Lower Blood Pressure. Nitrates in beetroot juice may help dilate blood vessels and reduce blood pressure.
  • Improved Exercise Stamina. Research indicates nitrate-rich beetroot juice can enhance exercise performance and endurance.
  • Support Heart Health. Beets provide nitrates, antioxidants and nutrients that may help reduce heart disease risk factors.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects. Betalains found in raw beets demonstrate anti-inflammatory activities in some studies.
  • Detoxification Support. Compounds in beets may help support natural detoxification in the body.
  • Reduce Oxidative Stress. Antioxidants like betalains and vitamin C help protect cells against damage from free radicals.

More research is still needed around correlating raw beet intake with specific health outcomes.

Finding Raw Organic Beets

Choosing organic raw beets can help reduce your exposure to potentially harmful pesticides and chemicals.

Some places where raw organic beets can be purchased include:

  • Farmers markets
  • Natural food stores
  • Specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods
  • Online stores such as Thrive Market

Growing your own organic beets at home is also an excellent option.

How to Grow Your Own Beets

Growing your own raw organic beets is simple with just a little space and a few supplies.

Follow these steps for growing beets:

  1. Select a sunny spot in your garden with nutrient-rich, well-draining soil.
  2. Directly sow seeds in the ground in early spring based on your climate.
  3. Space rows 12-18 inches apart, thinning seedlings to 2 inches between plants.
  4. Water soil regularly so it remains moist. Use mulch to retain moisture.
  5. Harvest beets when roots reach desired size, about 2-3 inches diameter.
  6. Pull up the entire plant and twist off the greens from the roots.
  7. Store unwashed greens and roots separately in the refrigerator.

With minimal work, you can enjoy homegrown raw beets all season long.

Common Questions about Raw Beets

Are raw beets good for you?

Yes, raw beets contain many nutrients and antioxidants beneficial for health. However, some people may need to exercise caution with raw beet consumption.

What happens if you eat too many raw beets?

Eating too many raw beets may cause gastrointestinal upset in some people. Beets contain oxalates, so overconsumption could contribute to kidney stones in susceptible individuals.

Are raw beets hard to digest?

For most people beets digest well, even when eaten raw. However, some report difficulty digesting raw beets. Light cooking can help break down cell walls and reduce digestive discomfort.

Can you eat beetroot skin raw?

Yes, the skin and greens of raw beets are edible. Just wash thoroughly before consuming. The skin contains beneficial fiber and nutrients.

Are raw beets alkaline or acidic?

Raw beets are considered an acidic food. Even though they have an alkalizing effect on the body, beets have a low pH and fall under the acid category.

Do you peel beets before juicing?

Peeling is not necessary since many nutrients are found in the skin, but scrubbing before juicing raw beets helps remove dirt and bacteria.

Can you freeze raw beets?

Yes, raw beets can be frozen for later use. Freeze peeled, pre-cut beets in an airtight container up to 10-12 months.

The Bottom Line

Raw beets provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that deliver great nutritional benefits. While generally safe, some people need to moderate their intake or avoid raw beets altogether.

Pay attention to your individual response and adjust your consumption levels accordingly. When enjoyed in moderation, raw beets can be a nutritious addition to a healthy diet for most people.

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