Pickled beets are a convenient alternative to fresh beets.
They’re rich in nutrients and offer many of the same health benefits as their fresh counterparts but have a much longer shelf life.
However, pickled beets can also be high in salt and sugar, so you may wonder whether they’re truly good for you.
This article discusses the pros and cons of eating pickled beets.
Beets are a root vegetable that’s often pickled.
Though pickling causes a small loss of nutrients, pickled beets remain a rich source of vitamins and minerals. Just 3.5 ounces (100 grams) provide:
- Calories: 65
- Protein: less than 1 gram
- Fat: less than 1 gram
- Carbs: 16 grams
- Sugar: 11 grams
- Fiber: less than 1 gram
- Copper: 13% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Manganese: 10% of the DV
- Folate: 7% of the DV
- Riboflavin: 4% of the DV
- Magnesium: 4% of the DV
- Vitamin C: 3% of the DV
- Pantothenic acid: 3% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 3% of the DV
- Choline: 3% of the DV
They’re especially rich in natural sugars, copper, folate, and manganese. These nutrients help boost your energy levels, make DNA, regulate your immune system, and build and repair tissues and bones.
Packed with beneficial compounds
Beets are likewise a rich source of flavonoid and polyphenol antioxidants, which protect your body against disease by fighting unstable molecules called free radicals.
In fact, beetroot is considered one of the 10 plants with the highest antioxidant activity. They’re especially rich in betalains and betanins, two polyphenols that give this veggie its deep red color.
However, the pickling process reduces antioxidant levels by 25–70%. Thus, pickled beets contain lower antioxidant levels than those of other forms of beets.
Beets are also a rich source of nitrates and saponins.
While nitrates help lower blood pressure and enhance athletic performance, saponins may boost immune and heart health.
Pickled beets made via fermentation or the addition of raw, unpasteurized vinegar also contain probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria linked to improved immune function, as well as better heart and digestive health.
These types of pickled beets are difficult to find in most grocery stores, so you can either make your own or look for them at farmers markets.
Pickled beets are linked to certain health benefits.
May boost heart health
Pickled beets are naturally rich in nitrates, which your body converts into nitric oxide. This molecule helps blood vessels dilate, which protects against high blood pressure.
Research suggests that beet products can lower blood pressure by up to 10 mm Hg. However, this effect likely only lasts a few hours, so you need to eat nitrate rich-foods regularly to prolong this effect.
Nitrates may also preserve endothelial function. The endothelium is a thin membrane lining the inside of your blood vessels that helps regulate blood clotting and immune function.
May improve digestion
In pickled beets made through natural fermentation, the healthy bacteria on beets’ skin break down their sugars over several days.
Fermented pickled beets are rich in healthy bacteria called probiotics, which improve your digestion by making it easier for your body to break down foods and absorb their nutrients.
Probiotics may also protect against toxins and harmful bacteria, as well as reduce gas, constipation, and bloating. What’s more, they may relieve symptoms of gut disorders like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.
May improve physical performance
The nitrates in pickled beets may improve athletic ability by boosting your muscles’ power and performance.
Some studies suggest that beetroot juice increases performance on timed endurance or high intensity exercise by around 3%.
However, these effects appear strongest in untrained individuals and are typically observed with beetroot juice, not pickled beets. It’s unclear how many pickled beets you’d have to eat to see the same effects.
May regulate your blood sugar levels
Pickled beets may lower your blood sugar levels.
Most varieties of pickled beets are made with vinegar, which studies suggest may reduce blood sugar and insulin levels after a meal.
Experts believe that beets’ nitrates and antioxidants also keep blood sugar levels in check.
In one study, concentrated beetroot juice caused a lower spike in blood sugar and insulin levels than a similar sugary beverage. Nonetheless, other studies failed to find the same result.
What’s more, none of these studies examined the direct effect of pickled beets on blood sugar and insulin levels. Therefore, more research is needed.
Depending on how they’re made, some varieties of pickled beets may pack salt and added sugars.
Research links excess sugar and salt intake to poor health and an increased risk of illnesses like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Therefore, it’s best to read labels carefully and pick varieties with little or no added sugar or salt, whenever possible.
Beets are also rich in oxalates — compounds that may reduce nutrient absorption and promote kidney stones. Therefore, people predisposed to kidney stones may want to limit their intake.
Though pickled beets may turn your urine pink or red, this side effect is harmless.
Pickled beets are popular on salads or as a side or snack.
These naturally sweet root veggies may have a number of health benefits, including improved digestion, physical performance, blood sugar levels, and heart health.
However, you should avoid varieties with high levels of added salt or sugar. To reap the greatest benefits, choose those made via natural fermentation or with raw, unpasteurized vinegar.