By Caroline H. Gottesman, "Three Cheers for Better Blood Pressure,"May/June 2010
When you want to lower your blood pressure, think beyond slashing salt, calories and fat—and also consider what you can add to your diet. More vegetables, fruits and lean protein, says the Institute of Medicine in a February 2010 report on preventing and controlling high blood pressure. Plus, recent research points to three beverages that also may help to lower blood pressure. Consider drinking more…
Both supply potassium and calcium, two nutrients that are associated with healthy blood pressure, and are fortified with vitamin D—a vitamin that new research suggests promotes healthy blood pressure. Substituting low-fat dairy—including milk—for full-fat versions may also help lower blood pressure, reports a 2009 study in the British Journal of Nutrition. In healthy people, arteries are “elastic”: they relax (widen) and constrict (narrow) to keep blood pressure within a normal range. Full-fat dairy contains significant amounts of palmitic acid (much more than low-fat dairy), which can block signals that relax blood vessels, leaving them in a constricted state that may keep blood pressure elevated, explains study author Estefanía Toledo, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Navarra, Spain.
Drinking hibiscus tea can significantly lower blood pressure, particularly when it is slightly elevated, according to a 2010 study in the Journal of Nutrition. Diane L. McKay, Ph.D., lead author of the study, believes that anthocyanins and other antioxidants in hibiscus tea may work together to keep blood vessels resistant to damage that causes them to narrow. Many herbal tea blends contain hibiscus, which brews up bright red and delivers a tart flavor. McKay recommends finding one you like and drinking three cups daily. To get the full benefits of the hibiscus, steep for six minutes before drinking hot or cold.
At your next celebration, raise a glass of…cranberry juice? Turns out, cranberry juice has the same blood pressure–lowering effects as red wine, according to a 2010 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. (The study was partially funded by Ocean Spray.) Both beverages—as well as apple juice and cocoa—boast antioxidants called proanthocyanidins, which inhibit synthesis of a compound called ET-1 that plays a role in constricting blood vessels.