Beets and Diabetes: Everything You Need to Know

Beets are the beauties of the garden-vibrant red and full of powerful health-promoting nutrients. But, are they a good choice if you have diabetes? Here’s everything you need to know about beets and diabetes! 

woman's hand grabbing a bunch of beets at the supermarket

Beets are a favorite among people of all ages and it’s no surprise why! They’re delicious canned, pickled, roasted, steamed or raw. Beets are perfect for adding a pop of bright color and an earthy flavor to any dish. But, did you know they’re also incredibly healthy, especially if you have diabetes? 

This article dives into beet nutrition, how they impact blood sugar, what the health benefits are, and how you can add beets into your diabetes diet plan to enjoy their sweet earthy flavor and all the benefits they have to offer. 

The nutrition value of beets

Beets are a non-starchy vegetable, meaning they’re low in carbohydrates and only minimally impact your blood sugar if you stick to a standard portion. 

One-half of a cup of sliced, cooked beets has:

  • Calories: 37 kcal
  • Protein:1.4 grams (g)
  • Fat: 0.2 g
  • Total Carbohydrates: 8.5 g
  • Fiber: 1.7 g
  • Sugar: 6.8 g
  • Rich in manganese, folate, and potassium

Adding beets to your salad, sandwiches, or dinner plate adds a big nutrient boost with only a small amount of carbohydrate. 

Roasting beets may make them taste sweet, but ½ cup of cooked beets only has 8.5 total grams of carbohydrates and 6.8 grams of net carbohydrates. They’re low in calories, fat, and protein but rich in minerals such as manganese, folate, and potassium.

Besides the nutrients in beets, they’re also a good source of antioxidants and nitrates. Beets are one of the ten plants with the highest amount of antioxidants, which has a big effect on how beets can benefit your health with diabetes. 

Health benefits of beets

Now that we’ve established that beets are a highly nutritious food, here are several potential health benefits that may convince you to eat them a little more often.

Beets could help lower your blood pressure 

If you have high blood pressure and diabetes, you’re not alone. Up to 73% of people with diabetes are also managing hypertension. Beets have the potential to help lower blood pressure. 

Research has found that beetroot juice can have a positive impact on blood pressure for healthy adults who just have slightly elevated blood pressure and those who are on medication to treat more serious hypertension. 

In one study, adults with high blood pressure drank 250 mL (about 1 cup) of beetroot juice daily for four weeks. The participants who drank the beetroot juice reduced their blood pressure by an average of 7.7/2.4 mm HG while no change was seen in the placebo group. 

The blood-pressure-lowering effect of beets is thanks to their high nitrate content. Nitrates are a natural vasodilator, widening blood vessels to improve blood flow. 

They fight free radicals

Beets are rich in antioxidants– plant compounds that fight free radicals and reduce oxidative stress on the body. Oxidative stress can damage cells and DNA, contributing to the development of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and brain disease. 

Research has found that the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables, like beets, can reduce the risk of diabetes complications, including heart disease and damage to the kidneys, eyes, liver, and nerves. 

Betanin is an antioxidant found abundantly in beets and has been found to reduce the risk of some cancers, liver and kidney damage, and heart and brain disease. 

They could reduce insulin resistance in prediabetes

While research has yet to find a link between beets and insulin resistance in diabetes, it may help decrease insulin resistance in healthy and obese adults. 

Insulin resistance (when your cells don’t respond well to insulin and have trouble taking sugar out of the bloodstream to use as energy), and obesity are linked to low nitrate levels in the body. One study found that drinking beetroot juice along with 25 grams of carbohydrate increased insulin sensitivity in adults with obesity, but not in those who were not obese. Beet juice has also been found to decrease blood sugar levels when drank with a meal in healthy individuals

While research has found that beets can increase insulin sensitivity and decrease blood sugar in healthy and obese adults, more research needs to be done with people who have diabetes.  

a bowl of beet hummus topped with seeds and herbs on a stone background.

What we know about how beets impact blood sugar

The glycemic index (GI) of cooked beets is 65– making it a medium GI food. While you may think you need to limit medium GI foods to manage your blood sugar, this isn’t always the case. 

The more important scale to look at is the Glycemic load (GL), which accounts for a typical portion of the food. The glycemic load of beets is only a 7, making it a low GL food– having only a small impact on your blood sugar. 

How to eat beets with diabetes

With all of the potential health benefits, nutritional value, and delicious flavor beets have to offer, you’re probably wondering how you can include more of this beautiful vegetable in your diet.  

  • Grate raw beets and add to salads or coleslaws
  • Enjoy fun and healthy spiderman beet muffins 
  • Boil and puree to add to hummus, dips, and spreads
  • Roast or boil, then slice them and serve as a side sprinkled with lemon juice and goat cheese
  • Roast and toss with a high-protein grain salad for a warm and nourishing side dish. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do beets raise blood sugar?

Beets are a carbohydrate, but they’re a non-starchy, low-carbohydrate vegetable that does not significantly raise blood sugar. 

Do canned beets lower blood sugar? 

Canned beets are a carbohydrate and will raise your blood sugar, although not a significant amount if you stick to a ½ a cup portion. One-half cup of canned beets has 8g of carbohydrate, about half of that in a slice of bread. 

What is the best way to eat beets with diabetes?

Beets can be enjoyed in many ways from adding fresh beets to salads and stir-fries to using canned or frozen beets in smoothies, muffins, and baked goods. How beets are prepared has a minimal impact on how they will impact blood sugar. It is the portion that matters most.

Do you want to know about other popular foods and diabetes? Check out some of these posts.

The bottom line

Beets are a great food to add to your diabetes meal plan. They’re nutritious, low in carbohydrates, and full of health-promoting nutrients like antioxidants and nitrates. With their fun color and earthy (sometimes sweet) flavor, it’s easy to sneak this superfood into your snacks and meals.

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