IT'S a staple ingredient in every good Kiwi burger or salad, and now researchers have found beetroot is also good for your heart.
The UK study found drinking a glass of beetroot juice helped lower blood pressure.
The study, published in American Heart Association journal, Hypertension, tested 15 people who were given either 250ml of beetroot juice or water, with those drinking the juice showing a drop in blood pressure even after 24 hours.
Previous studies have also found a link between beetroot and blood pressure, including an Australian study published by Nutrition Journal in December last year.
Researchers found similar results in 30 participants who were given a mix of beetroot and apple juice, with men showing a greater drop in blood pressure than women.
The effect is down to beetroot's high level of nitrates, said Caryn Zinn, dietitian and NZ Nutrition Foundation sports nutrition committee member.
"They can do all sorts of positive things, such as reducing blood pressure,'' she said.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Beetroot also has benefits for sports people, Dr Zinn said, as other recent studies have shown it helps improve stamina by reducing the oxygen cost of exercise.
Leafy green vegetables, such as celery, lettuce, spinach and rocket, are also good sources of nitrates, but beetroot is a particularly concentrated source.
However, Dr Zinn urged caution around drinking some commercial beetroot juices which may contain added sugar.
"If you're drinking a whole lot of beetroot juice, yes you're getting some nitrates, but sugar and to a certain extent carbohydrates are also currently being implicated in cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and diabetes.
"You're still getting the benefit by eating the vegetable,'' she said.
For best health benefits, she said, beetroot should be eaten as part of a healthy diet, with plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Heinz Wattie's is New Zealand's major beetroot grower. This year it harvested a record 26,000 tonne crop in Hawke's Bay, up by 80 per cent on last year. Most of the crop was destined for export markets.
Production at Hawke's Bay has increased after Heinz Wattie's moved some of its beetroot production from Australia.
New Zealanders consume about 2400 tonnes - about six million cans - of Heinz Wattie's canned beetroot a year, with another 600 tonnes supplied to the hospitality industry.