Nancy Dell: Beet juice and exercise; “An apple a day”


1. How can I improve my endurance for marathons this season?
Adam, Longmeadow

According to research presented last week at the Massachusetts Dietetic Association conference, beets can improve your athletic performance.

Beets and beet juice are rich in nitrates.  When you eat them, nitrates convert to nitric acid which enhances blood flow so more oxygen is available to your muscles and you can work harder.

In one study, athletes were given about 2 cups of beet juice 2 hours before exercise.  The nitrite in blood plasma increased 138 percent.

The greatest benefit was seen near the end of the event when athletes are getting tired.  The average improvement was 0.4% – enough to win an event.

As for using iron for endurance, have your doctor check your iron level.  In a study of college aged people, 21% of male runners and 50% of female athletes were found to have low iron.

2. Is there any truth to the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”?  I never hear much about apples’ health benefits.
Summer, Internet

There is some truth to that statement.  According to research at the University of Oxford, an apple a day can lower you bad LDL cholesterol as much as some statins with fewer side effects.

The researchers claim an apple a day could prevent or delay 8,500 deaths a year from heart attacks and strokes in people over age 50.

Statins may cause myopathy and muscle soreness as well as diabetes in some people. Apples will not.

But do not stop taking your statin without discussing your situation with your doctor.  Also be sure to wash your apple well and buy organic if you can to avoid the pesticides.

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