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Who should not eat raw beets?

Beets are a nutritious root vegetable that can be enjoyed raw or cooked. However, there are some groups of people who may want to avoid eating raw beets or consume them in moderation. In this article, we’ll look at who should not eat raw beets and why.

People with Kidney Stones

Beets are high in oxalate, a naturally-occurring substance that can contribute to kidney stone formation in susceptible individuals. People who have a history of oxalate kidney stones may want to limit their intake of raw beets.

Food Oxalate Content (mg/serving)
Raw beet 97
Cooked beet 22

As you can see in the table, raw beets contain a significantly higher amount of oxalates per serving compared to cooked beets. Consuming high-oxalate foods like raw beets can increase the risk of calcium oxalate kidney stones in those prone to them.

Individuals Prone to Kidney Problems

Consuming raw beets may also be risky for individuals who already have compromised kidney function. Raw beets are high in potassium and may be difficult for those with kidney disease to process and excrete excess potassium properly.

In one small study in patients with chronic kidney disease stages 3 and 4, consuming raw beet juice significantly increased potassium levels and was associated with hyperkalemia (high potassium) in some patients.

Boiling or roasting beets can reduce the potassium content. So for those with impaired kidney function, it may be best to avoid raw beets and choose cooked preparations instead.

People Taking Certain Medications

The compounds in raw beets like betalains and oxalates can interact with certain medications, potentially reducing the drug’s effectiveness or increasing side effects.

For example, consuming raw beets may interact with the following medications:

  • Blood thinners like warfarin – Beets contain high levels of vitamin K which can reduce the anticoagulant effects of these drugs.
  • Beta-blockers – Beets may boost levels of nitric oxide which can interact with beta-blockers used for heart conditions.
  • Allopurinol – Used for gout treatment. Raw beets may increase the likelihood of kidney stones in some taking this drug.
  • Lithium – Beets have a high potassium content which can increase lithium levels to unsafe levels.

If you take any of these medications, talk to your healthcare provider before adding more raw beets to your diet. They can help determine appropriate portion sizes and preparation methods.

Individuals with Gallbladder Issues

Some compounds in raw beets may aggravate gallbladder issues in susceptible people. Oxalates and betanins from beets can accumulate in the bile and aggravate gallbladder stones.

One study found that people who consumed raw beet juice had significantly more gallbladder contractions compared to when they consumed cooked beet juice or water. The researchers hypothesize this is due to the higher oxalate content of raw beets.

If you have a history of gallstones or gallbladder problems, it may be prudent to avoid eating large amounts of raw beets or switch to cooked preparations.

People with GERD or Ulcers

Raw beets are acidic, with a pH around 5.5. This acidity, combined with roughage from the fiber, may irritate the esophagus and stomach lining.

In those with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or peptic ulcers, raw beets could potentially exacerbate symptoms like heartburn and abdominal pain.

Cooking beet roots can make them easier to digest. Some quick cooking methods to reduce acidity include:

  • Roasting or boiling beets for 15-20 minutes
  • Pickling raw beets in vinegar
  • Pureeing raw beets and cooking into a soup

Implementing these cooking methods can help those with reflux or ulcers enjoy beets without discomfort.

Individuals Prone to Beet Allergies

Some people may experience allergic reactions from eating raw beets. Common beet allergy symptoms include:

  • Itching, tingling, or swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, throat
  • Hives, itchy rash or skin welts
  • Runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain

Reactions can occur after handling raw beets or consuming them. Usually, cooking beets can help denature the proteins responsible for allergic reactions. But those with true beet allergies may need to avoid all preparations, including cooked.

People with Diabetes

Raw beets have the potential to interact with diabetes medication and affect blood sugar control. Compounds in raw beets called betalains were found in one study to inhibit certain enzymes related to carb digestion and insulin secretion.

Additionally, raw beets have a high glycemic index around 65. The glycemic index measures how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels. Foods over 55 are considered high glycemic.

Eating raw, high-glycemic foods on a regular basis can be problematic for diabetes management. Roasted, boiled or pickled beets have a lower glycemic index around 45-55.

People with diabetes shouldn’t avoid beets completely. But they should opt for cooked preparations and monitor blood sugar closely when consuming them raw.

Pregnant Women

Listeria infection from contaminated produce is a concern during pregnancy. Listeria can cross the placenta and harm the fetus.

Beets and beet greens grown in contaminated soil could potentially harbor Listeria. Cooking beets thoroughly can kill any bacteria present.

However, pregnant women may want to err on the side of caution and only consume cooked beets, not raw. This helps reduce the slight risk of Listeria associated with raw vegetable consumption.


For most people, eating raw beets is likely safe in moderation. But certain groups may want to exercise caution or avoid raw beets entirely. These include:

  • Those with kidney issues
  • People taking certain medications that interact with compounds in raw beets
  • Individuals with gallbladder or GERD problems
  • People with beet allergies
  • Individuals with diabetes who need to control blood sugar
  • Pregnant women susceptible to Listeria

Cooking beets by roasting, boiling, baking, or pickling can reduce oxalates, potassium, and allergenic proteins in beets. This makes them safer to consume for most people. When in doubt, consult your healthcare provider about your specific dietary needs.