High blood pressure is a common condition affecting 1 in 3 adults in the United States. Many people have high blood pressure for years without even knowing it. That’s why it’s called the silent killer. High blood pressure is one of the signs that you have silent inflammation—the underlying feature of most, if not all, chronic disease. High blood pressure damages the artery lining over time, eventually leading to atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque in the arteries, the characteristic of coronary heart disease.

A particular chemical produced in the body, nitric oxide, plays an important role in dilating blood vessels, which has the direct effect of lowering blood pressure. Nitric oxide can be increased in the bloodstream by eating foods such as chocolate, beetroot juice, leafy greens, and watermelon. In a recent study published in the journal Hypertension, 8 ounces of beetroot juice was found to lower blood pressure by about 10 mm Hg after about three hours, and blood pressure remained decreased even up to 24 hours later.

The beetroot juice contained a small amount of nitrate (the equivalent of that found in two beets), which converts in the body into nitrite, and then nitric oxide, the blood vessel dilator. “We were surprised by how little nitrate was needed to see such a large effect,” stated Amrita Ahluwalia, PhD, lead researcher. “This study shows that compared to individuals with healthy blood pressure, much less nitrate is needed to produce the kinds of decreases in blood pressure that might provide clinical benefits in people who need to lower their blood pressure.”

I am a big promoter of vegetable juicing. Adding beets to vegetable juice is a great way to add nutrients to your diet. Now we know it’s a great way to help lower blood pressure, too.