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UniSA study finds beetroot boosts sporting performance

Kamahl Cogdon, June 16, 2022 6:30PM Kids News

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Mani Hart-Deville with a beetroot grown in the vegetable garden at Wooli Public School in NSW. Picture: Sandy Scheltema media_cameraMani Hart-Deville with a beetroot grown in the vegetable garden at Wooli Public School in NSW. Picture: Sandy Scheltema


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If you’ve got a big game or sporting competition coming up, you might want to put beetroot on your menu.

Australian researchers have found the humble beetroot can give athletes a competitive edge on the sporting field.

The bright-red root vegetable has been found to boost endurance* because of its high level of nitrates. Nitrates are a natural chemical compound* that have been given a bad rap* because they are added as preservatives* to processed meats* like ham, but which are actually pretty good for you when eaten in vegetables.

media_cameraThe humble beetroot has been found to boost sporting performance because of its high level of nitrates. Picture: Fawcett Media

The UniSA study found nitrate levels in beetroot, which have been shown to boost blood flow and increase the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to muscles during exercise, helped athletes perform better more quickly.

The researchers looked at data from 118 studies involving 1872 participants from 25 countries to evaluate how consuming different foods affects sporting endurance.

As well as looking at nitrate-rich beetroot, the researchers looked at grapes, sour cherries and pine bark extract for their polyphenols and at watermelon for its L-citrulline.

Polyphenols are compounds found in plants that have many benefits for the body and can help fight disease. L-citrulline is an amino acid* that helps with heart and blood vessel health.

The study found the polyphenols in grapes, sour cherries and pine bark extract helped protect nitrate from being broken down in the body, boosting stamina*.

But eating watermelon was found to have no benefit on exercise performance.

Bunch of green grapes. media_cameraGrapes were also found to help athletes perform better and faster.

Lead researcher Noah D’Unienville said the findings provided further evidence that some foods were natural endurance enhancers*.

“There’s a lot of interest in nitrate-rich and polyphenol-rich foods because of their potential to boost exercise performance, but just because they contain these elements, doesn’t mean this will translate into improved exercise performance,” Mr D’Unienville said.

“While our study shows that beetroot (among other foods) can boost performance, other nitrate-rich foods such as red spinach, Swiss chard and rhubarb, did not show similar benefits.

“Also, while grapes, pine bark extract and sour cherries can help athletes perform better and faster, we found no effects for other polyphenol-rich foods, including blackcurrant, cocoa, ginseng, green tea or raisins.”

TAS_MER_INDULGE_MARIGOLD CAFE_22AUG20 media_cameraBeetroot juice like this one served with carrot and orange juice at North Hobart’s Marigold Cafe could help athletes boost their endurance. Picture: Chris Kidd

Co-researcher Professor Jon Buckley said the boost to exercise performance and stamina varied among different groups of athletes.

“The results did show more significant effects among athletes who were less fit, and also that men were more likely to benefit from these foods than women,” Prof Buckley said.

He said there were fewer women included in the data the researchers examined, but the UniSA findings suggested more investigation was warranted*.

“All in all, we know that trying to get fit takes time and effort but add a glass of beetroot juice to your training schedule and you just might see the difference,” he said.


  • endurance: the ability to continue doing something for a long time
  • compound: a thing that is made up of two or more separate elements; a mixture
  • bad rap: a negative reputation
  • preservatives: substances or chemicals added to food to stop them going off as quickly as they would otherwise
  • processed meats: meats that have been modified to improve their taste or make them last longer before going off
  • amino acid: a compound contained in living cells. Amino acids combine to make proteins, which perform many important roles in the body
  • stamina: the physical or mental strength to do something for a long time
  • enhancers: things that are used to strengthen or improve the quality of something
  • warranted: justified, reasonable and acceptable


Do you know your vegetables?

Damage soft drink can do to your body


  1. What chemical compound in beetroot has been found to boost athletic performance?
  2. Which university conducted this research?
  3. How many studies did they look at?
  4. Besides beetroot, name two other foods that were food to boost exercise performance.
  5. What type of athlete was found to benefit most from consuming these foods?


1. What’s important?
What are the three most important pieces of information in this story?

For each piece of information, design and create a diagram or visual that will help other kids learn about and understand it.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Health and Physical Education, Visual Communication Design

2. Extension
“Nitrates will help all athletes perform better.” Use information in the story to write a list of reasons why you agree OR disagree with this statement.

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Health and Physical Education, Science

Beetroot super powers
A cup of beetroot boosting performance in sports sounds like a super food to me, so let’s turn it into a real SUPER FOOD!

Imagine if every time you drank a glass of beetroot juice you gained superpowers.

What would your superpower be? What would you use it for?

Share one adventure you would have after drinking your glass of beetroot juice.

Use your VCOP skills to edit and up-level your writing to give your writing super powers too.

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