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Photo: Stocksy/Pixel Stories

No matter how you feel about beets, you can’t deny the veggie’s health benefits. They’re full of phytonutrients, antioxidants, and energy-boosting carbohydrates that do the body good—and according to a new study, they’re great for the brain, too.

After having a group of adults with the average age of 65 drink either a shot of nitrate-rich beet juice or a placebo with fewer nitrates an hour before a moderately intense, 50-minute, daily walk on a treadmill for six weeks, researchers found that the brains of those who had the higher nitrate levels (AKA regular beet juice) performed better than the other group. The beet-juice cohort’s brain function reflected a high quality common to young adults.

“A number of studies had shown that exercise has positive effects on the brain,” said study co-author W. Jack Rejeski, PhD, in a press release. But this study showed that “adding a beetroot juice supplement to exercise resulted in brain connectivity that closely resembles what you see in younger adults.”

“Adding a beetroot juice supplement to exercise resulted in brain connectivity that closely resembles what you see in younger adults.”

Here’s why: According to a release, beets naturally contain high levels of dietary nitrate that turn into nitrite then nitric oxide after consumption. Since nitric oxide has been shown to improve exercise performance due to its ability to increase the body’s blood flow, drinking beet juice before exercise amps up the amount of oxygen going to the brain, which in turn strengthens the somatomotor cortex—the part of the brain that processes info from the muscles.

So even if you don’t fall in the study’s age group, there’s no hurt in giving a pre-workout beet juice a try. Since the pink drink improved older adults’ brain function enough to resemble their younger selves, why not implement the longevity practice into your routine? Sounds like beet juice comes pretty close to being an elixir of youth for the brain.

Here are three new ways to use beets you probably haven’t tried yet. In need of a new spiralizer recipe? This one teaches you how to dress up beet noodles.