High blood pressure is the second greatest public health threat in America and increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disorders and other health problems. So finding ways to address this problem is important.
Because this health issue is often caused by the foods people eat, it makes sense that food might be the best solution.
The researchers from Japan and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington analyzed the findings of seven clinical trials and 32 observational studies — almost 22,000 participants in total — and found that vegetarians had lower blood pressure levels. (The findings are published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.)
People with high blood pressure often take medicines, but these medications don’t always work or have negative side effects. Also, they can be expensive.
“Unlike drugs, there is no cost to a diet adjustment of this type, and all the ‘side effects’ of a plant-based diet are desirable: weight loss, lower cholesterol and better blood sugar control, among others,” Yoko Yokoyama, lead author of the study, said.
Why does a vegetarian diet lower blood pressure?
Here are some explanations of why a vegetarian diet lowers blood pressure. Vegetarian diets are usually:
- High in fiber
- Low fat and less dense
- Higher in potassium, which is associated with blood pressure
- Lower in sodium
- Lower in saturated fats and higher in polyunsaturated fats
- Higher in vegetable protein
People who give up meat usually lose weight, which causes them to achieve a healthier blood pressure.
This isn’t the first time a vegetarian diet has been proven to help people with blood pressure. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan calls for low animal fat and salt, and has been proven to reduce blood pressure by as much as medication. Followers of this plan eat a mostly plant-based diet, yet they can eat some poultry and fish.
However, this analysis is good news for the many people with high blood pressure because they can take action to improve their health. And this is great news for the health community, because hopefully more doctors and health professionals will counsel patients to change their diet, rather than relying on medication to fix their problems.
Some other things that may reduce blood pressure:
- Eating raw nuts — almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts
- Eating raisins and soy — these may ward off high blood pressure because they are high in potassium and fiber
- Eating a daily dose of dark chocolate
- Eating flaxseeds
- Eating raw, crushed garlic
Also, vegans have much lower blood pressure — up to 35 percent lower!
Image Source: Spicy Kale Pesto with Zucchini Noodles