Are beetroot leaves poisonous?

Beetroot, also known as beet, is a popular root vegetable that offers many health benefits. While the red bulbous portion is the most commonly consumed part, the leafy green tops are also edible. However, there is some debate regarding whether beetroot leaves are safe to eat. This article takes an in-depth look at the potential risks and benefits of beet greens to determine if they are truly poisonous.

Nutritional Profile of Beetroot Leaves

Like many leafy greens, beetroot leaves are highly nutritious. Some of the key nutrients found in beet greens include:

Nutrient Per 1 Cup Raw (134g)
Calories 37
Protein 3 grams
Carbs 6 grams
Fiber 4 grams
Vitamin A 148% DV
Vitamin C 53% DV
Vitamin K 644% DV
Potassium 28% DV
Magnesium 16% DV

As you can see, beet greens are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are particularly high in vitamins A, C, and K. The deep green color indicates high antioxidant content as well.

Potential Benefits of Eating Beetroot Leaves

Research shows that consuming beetroot leaves may provide several health benefits:

  • Antioxidants – Beet greens contain antioxidant compounds like beta-carotene, vitamin C, and quercetin. These help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.
  • Detoxification – The high fiber and mineral content in beet leaves may help remove toxins and improve liver function.
  • Heart health – Beet greens are a source of potassium and nitrates, both of which help lower blood pressure and improve vascular function.
  • Digestion – The fiber found in beet leaves promotes regularity, relieves constipation, and improves gut health.

Additionally, preliminary studies show that beetroot leaves may have anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, and neuroprotective properties. More research is needed to confirm these potential benefits.

Potential Side Effects of Beet Greens

Most people can safely eat beetroot leaves in moderation. However, there are a few potential side effects to be aware of:

  • Kidney stones – Beet greens are high in oxalates, which can contribute to kidney stone formation in susceptible individuals.
  • Allergic reaction – Some people may be allergic to beetroot leaves. Reactions can include itching, hives, swelling, and anaphylaxis.
  • Upset stomach – Beet leaves are high in fiber. Overdoing it can cause gastrointestinal issues like gas, cramps, and diarrhea.
  • Beeturia – Consuming large amounts of beet greens can temporarily turn urine and stools pinkish-red.

To avoid adverse effects, start slowly when introducing beet greens. Drink plenty of fluids and don’t exceed more than 1 cup per day.

Are Beet Greens Toxic?

There are claims that beet greens contain high levels of toxic compounds like oxalates and alkaloids. However, research does not support beetroot leaves being poisonous when consumed in normal food amounts.


Beetroot leaves do contain moderate amounts of oxalates. Very high intakes of oxalates can be an issue for those prone to kidney stones. Yet for most people, oxalates from beet greens pose no toxicity risk.

Here are the oxalate levels in 1 cup of some common foods:

Food Total Oxalates (mg)
Spinach 750
Almonds 117-320
Beetroot leaves 89
Broccoli 62
Oats 16
Peanuts 6

As you can see from the table, beet greens are moderate in oxalates compared to many other healthy foods.


Beetroot leaves contain betaine and small amounts of other alkaloids like betanin. At very high supplemental doses, these may have detrimental effects. But alkaloid content in beet greens is far too low to cause harm when eaten.

Are Beet Greens Safe to Eat?

For most people, beetroot leaves can be safely enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy diet. However, some individuals may need to exercise caution with beet greens:

  • Those with kidney issues or prone to kidney stones may want to limit intake.
  • People with oxalate sensitivity may also need to monitor their consumption.
  • Anyone with an allergy to beets should avoid beet greens.
  • Introduce beet leaves slowly to assess tolerance if concerned.

Pregnant women, children, and those on medication should consult their healthcare provider before adding large amounts of beet greens to their diet.

How to Eat Beet Greens

Beet greens require thorough cooking to break down the tough cell walls before eating. Here are some delicious ways to enjoy beetroot leaves:

  • Saute beet greens in olive oil with garlic and onions.
  • Add chopped greens to soups, stews, and casseroles.
  • Blend into smoothies, juices, and pesto.
  • Mix young tender greens into salads.
  • Substitute for spinach in dishes like spanakopita.

Cooking helps mellow the earthy, mineral-like taste of beet leaves. Pairing them with citrus, nuts, cheese, and spices can provide balance.

The Bottom Line

When consumed in reasonable amounts, beet greens can be a very nutritious addition to the diet. They provide an array of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber with very few calories.

While beetroot leaves are not considered poisonous, those prone to kidney stones or oxalate sensitivity may want to exercise some caution. Introduce beet greens slowly and pair them with other vegetables to help enhance their flavor and absorbability.

Include beet greens as part of a varied whole food diet for the optimal nutritional benefits of this under-appreciated veggie green.

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