Quirks & Quarks

Why does eating beets make my urine pink?

Red or bright pink urine after eating beets may occur in people with low stomach acid, according to renal dietician Tanya Choy. But rest assured, it's harmless.
Red or bright pink urine after eating beets may occur in people with low stomach acid, according to renal dietician Tanya Choy. (AFP/Getty Images)

This week's question comes from Geoffrey Carter in Kingston, Ont., who asked: "Why does beet make my urine turn pink?"

Tanya Choy, a renal dietician at Saint Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, has the answer:

Some people may have experienced the shock of seeing red or pink urine after eating beets because they may have mistaken it for blood. But this is actually a harmless condition called beeturia.

Beeturia does not seem to be well studied with limited research done mostly between the 1980s and '90s. It's said to affect 10 to 14 per cent of the population.

The extent of discoloration varies from person to person.The colour is due to the compound betanin in beets, which is what gives the root vegetable its bright red pigment. After eating beets, some people have trouble breaking down this pigment and the betanin compound makes its way to the kidneys and is flushed out in the form of red or pink urine.  

Some limited articles state that beeturia may occur in people with low stomach acid. For example, this can occur in people who take anti-acid medication. Low stomach acid can make it more difficult to digest and absorb nutrients and possibly more trouble breaking down the red pigment in beetroot. If you have pink or red coloured urine not related to diet, it's important to talk to your doctor as it may indicate a different condition.

In summary, beeturia is believed to be harmless. By eating beets, you get a rich source of vitamins, minerals, fibre and exciting bathroom breaks too!

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