Are beet greens a laxative?

Beet greens are the leafy tops of beetroot plants that are often removed and discarded before beets are sold and eaten. However, beet greens are edible and nutritious, leading some people to wonder if they have laxative effects similar to the beetroot bulb. This article examines the evidence on whether beet greens can cause diarrhea or relieve constipation.

What Are Beet Greens?

Beet greens consist of the leaves and stems attached to the beetroot bulb. They have an earthy, bitter taste that is less sweet than beetroot. Beet greens are highly nutritious, sometimes even more so than the beetroot itself. For example, one cup of cooked beet greens contains:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 39
Protein 3 grams
Fiber 4 grams
Vitamin A 148% DV
Vitamin C 50% DV
Vitamin K 548% DV
Potassium 31% DV

This nutritional profile makes beet greens a very healthy addition to salads, soups, stews, and other dishes. The high fiber and mineral content also leads some to believe beet greens have laxative properties.

Are Beets Constipating or Laxative?

The beetroot bulb is sometimes described as having both constipating and laxative effects. The cause of these differing responses likely comes down to the dose consumed:

  • Small amounts of beets are considered constipating due to their fiber content.
  • Large doses act as a laxative by encouraging intestinal contraction and speeding transit time.

This means beets have the ability to relieve constipation, but overdoing it may result in loose stools or diarrhea. The oxalic acid in beets also plays a role. Oxalic acid can bind to calcium and cause the colon to extract more water, leading to softer stools.

Do Beet Greens Have Laxative Properties?

Very little research has specifically examined the laxative potential of beet greens. However, some extrapolation can be made based on their nutritional content:

  • Fiber: Like the beetroot, beet greens are high in fiber. One cup contains 4 grams, which is 14% of the daily recommended intake. Insoluble fiber from foods like beets adds bulk and weight to stools, while soluble fiber softens them. This helps speed up transit time and relieve constipation.
  • Potassium: Beet greens are high in potassium, providing around 10% of the RDI per cup. Potassium helps balance fluid levels in the body, which can reduce constipation by keeping stools soft.
  • Oxalates: Approximately 10% of the oxalates in beets are retained in the leaves. Oxalic acid is thought to stimulate intestinal contraction and draw more water into the colon, acting as a natural laxative.

Based on their nutritional makeup, evidence suggests beet greens may have mild laxative properties. However, given the lack of direct research on beet green consumption and bowel movements, the strength and predictability of these effects is unknown.

Anecdotal Reports on Beet Greens and Laxative Effects

In the absence of controlled studies on beet greens and laxation, anecdotal reports can provide some insight:

  • Many people note somewhat loose, more frequent stools after eating beet greens, particularly in large amounts.
  • Sudden high intakes seem more likely to cause urgent bowel movements or diarrhea.
  • Those with digestive issues like IBS seem most prone to laxative effects.
  • Cooking beet greens appears to reduce stool-loosening effects compared to eating them raw.
  • Not everyone experiences a laxative effect, suggesting individual tolerance varies.

Overall, many people report some laxative potential with beet greens, but experiences are mixed. More research is needed on optimal dosing to harness any stool-loosening benefits.

Other Potential Uses for Beet Greens

In addition to possible laxative properties, some research suggests beet greens may offer other health benefits:

Potential Benefit Contributing Nutrients
Lower blood pressure Nitrates, magnesium
Reduce inflammation Vitamin K, antioxidants
Support detoxification Phytochemicals, B vitamins
Improve circulation Nitrates, iron

The nutrients and plant compounds in beet greens, including nitrates, antioxidants, and vitamin K, may help prevent and treat certain chronic diseases. More human research is needed, but animal and cell studies show promising results so far.

How to Eat Beet Greens

Beet greens can be prepared and enjoyed in many of the same ways as other leafy greens like spinach and chard:

  • Raw: Add to salads, smoothies, cold soups like gazpacho, raw veggie slaws, etc.
  • Sauteed: Quickly cook with olive oil and garlic. Sprinkle with lemon juice.
  • Steamed: Steam for 3-5 minutes until wilted. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Roasted: Roast at 400°F for 15-20 minutes with olive oil and spices.
  • Baked: Add to casseroles, tarts, frittatas, and other baked dishes.

Cooking helps mellow the strong, earthy flavor. But for maximum nutrition, enjoy beet greens raw or lightly cooked whenever possible.

Precautions with Beet Greens

Beet greens are very safe for most people, but some precautions apply:

  • Introduce beet greens slowly to assess individual tolerance and laxative response.
  • Excess oxalates may pose issues for those prone to kidney stones.
  • The nitrates may interact with certain medications like blood pressure and ED drugs.
  • If you take blood thinners, speak to a healthcare provider before eating beet greens regularly.

Additionally, rinse beet greens well and cook thoroughly to avoid foodborne illness from contaminated produce.


Beet greens nutrition and anecdotal reports suggest they may offer mild laxative effects for some people. Their fiber, potassium, and oxalic acid content may help get things moving by drawing more water into the intestines and promoting contractions. However, human studies are lacking, so the strength of these effects is uncertain.

When introduced in moderation, beet greens may help relieve constipation. But sudden large intakes could result in loose stools or diarrhea, especially for people with digestive sensitivities. Overall, beet greens are very healthy and provide a highly nutrient-dense way to get more greens into your diet.

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