Specific Foods that have an Influence on Blood Pressure

Dealing with our daily stressors definitely tends to raise our blood pressure, from tackling traffic to running the kids around. Luckily these things only raise our blood pressure temporarily. However, there are people who suffer from chronically raised blood pressure, whether they are aware of it or not (best to get yourself checked out). Usually we start with changes in lifestyle to try and lower our blood pressure, but medication may be necessary. In this article we take a look at foods that can influence our blood pressure.

FOODS AND NUTRIENTS THAT CAN INCREASE BLOOD PRESSURE

Various foods may raise or lower your blood pressure, and some may have a neutral effect altogether. Perhaps it is pertinent to start with what we should be avoiding.

High salt intake1,2

Most of us are aware that salt may increase our blood pressure. On average, there is an increase in blood pressure as salt intake rises. It is recommended that individuals select foods that are lower in salt, as well as limit the amount of salt that is added to food1,2. If you think that this will lead to bland food – think again! There is a variety of herbs and spices you can use to flavour your food, so get creative.

Red/processed meats3

A large review of studies found that red/processed meats tend to increase the risk of chronic disease, including high blood pressure3.

Certain carbohydrate forms1

There is evidence to suggest that both the amount and type of carbohydrate intake can affect blood pressure1, where highly refined carbohydrates are likely to contribute to its elevation. So keep your sweet tooth in check!

Excessive alcohol consumption1

It has been shown that there is a dose-dependent relationship between blood pressure and alcohol intake, especially when the intake of alcohol exceeds 2 drinks per day1. The intake of alcohol should be limited to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. A unit of alcohol is defined as:

  • 360 ml of beer
  • 150 ml of wine (12% alcohol)
  • 45 ml of distilled spirits (80-proof)

Note: This isn’t an allowance of units that can be saved for the weekend!

Coffee4

For all the coffee lovers! In individuals with high blood pressure, caffeine intake results in an acute rise in blood pressure for 3 hours or more. However, this is not to say that coffee consumption leads to a longer-term increase in blood pressure, or to an increased risk of heart disease4. Whew!

A high intake of salt, the intake of red/processed meats, the intake of refined carbohydrates and excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to chronically elevated blood pressure. Coffee intake can temporarily increase blood pressure, but this does not seem to be associated with any adverse consequences.

FOODS AND NUTRIENTS THAT CAN LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE

Luckily the list of foods we should be avoiding is quite short, where the list of foods that can help lower blood pressure gives us a variety to choose from.

Plant foods3

A large review of many studies has shown that plant food groups are more protective than animal food groups against chronic diseases that are related to diet, such as high blood pressure3. Interestingly it was also found that grain products are more protective than fruits and vegetables within plant food groups!

Increased intake of Potassium1

A reduction in blood pressure has been associated with a high Potassium intake. It is advised to achieve a high Potassium intake through food, as opposed to pills, as this will be accompanied by various other beneficial nutrients1. Great dietary sources of Potassium include avocado, banana, spinach and sweet potato.

Fish oil supplements1

Some studies have shown that high doses (3g/day) of fish oil supplements can lower blood pressure, in individuals with high blood pressure. However in people with normal blood pressure, the effects appear to be nonsignificant1.

Fibre1

There is some evidence that shows that a high fibre intake may reduce blood pressure, but overall it is insufficient to recommend that this alone as a means to decrease blood pressure1. Luckily we get a lot of our fibre from fruit and veg, so we would be getting our potassium at the same time.

Monounsaturated fats1

Partially substituting carbohydrates with monounsaturated fat has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce risk for heart disease1,5.

Protein intake1

Replacement of carbohydrate with protein from plant sources is associated with lower blood pressure1.

Low-fat dairy products6

Consuming low-fat dairy foods can decrease blood pressure, fluid products (e.g. milk and yoghurt) produce the greatest effect compared to cheese products. The beneficial effects seen in dairy products is likely due to calcium, magnesium and potassium content, as well as vitamin D found in fortified dairy products6.

Cocoa7

A small study has shown that including small amounts of dark chocolate that is rich in polyphenols as part of a usual diet for individuals with high blood pressure reduces blood pressure and improves the formation of nitric oxide and dilates blood vessels7. Yay for (dark) chocolate!

Pomegranate juice8

A review of studies has found that pomegranate juice is effective for lowering blood pressure in those who have high blood pressure. This is likely due to the effect that the polyphenols have on the functioning of the blood vessels8.

Potassium, fish oil supplements, low-fat dairy products, cocoa and pomegranate juice lower blood pressure. Replacing some refined carbohydrate in the diet with protein and monounsaturated fat also decreases blood pressure. Note, there is insufficient evidence for fibre, calcium and magnesium to be used alone to lower blood pressure.

DIETARY PATTERNS THAT HAVE BEEN SHOWN TO LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE

Though in some cases we may be able to pin-point exact foods and nutrients that can lower blood pressure, it is advisable to eat a combination of these for optimal effect. Thus, there are certain dietary patterns that have been shown to have beneficial effects on our blood pressure.

Vegetarian diets1

Vegetarian diets have been associated with low blood pressure. Many aspects of a vegetarian lifestyle may contribute to the lower blood pressure, such as increased potassium intake (from the consumption of fruits and vegetables), high fibre intake and the exclusion of meat.

The DASH dietary pattern1

A DASH diet is high in fruits and vegetables, and emphasizes low-fat dairy products; includes whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts; and is lower in fats, red meat, sweets and sugar-containing drinks. Due to this such a diet it is high in potassium, magnesium, calcium and fibre and is lower in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Rather than one nutrient being responsible, it is thought that many aspects the diet are what leads to the reduction in blood pressure1.

WHERE DOES FUTURELIFE® FIT IN?

Most of the FUTURELIFE® range of products are high in protein (predominantly plant-based), fibre and Omega-3, and also contain potassium, magnesium and calcium. FUTURELIFE® chocolate variants use cocoa, which can contribute to the intake of polyphenols that assist in lowering blood pressure. FUTURELIFE® products also meet the guidelines of the Sodium Reduction Regulations that have been set out by government, due to this they can therefore be enjoyed without the concern of consuming excessive amounts of salt. To best control your blood pressure they should be enjoyed in combination with a healthy diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats or legumes, while limiting processed foods which do not meet these regulations.

I hope that this review will be of assistance in the management of your blood pressure. For more information on high blood pressure (hypertension) and the management thereof visit http://www.hypertension.org.za

REFERENCES

  1. Dietary Approaches to Prevent and Treat Hypertension: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Lawrence J. Appel, Michael W. Brands, Stephen R. Daniels, Njeri Karanja, Patricia J. Elmer and Frank M. Sacks. s.l. : Hypertension, 2006, Vol. 47.
  2. EFFECTS ON BLOOD PRESSURE OF REDUCED DIETARY SODIUM AND THE DIETARY APPROACHES TO STOP HYPERTENSION (DASH) DIET. Frank M Sacks, Laura P Svetkey, William M Vollmer, Lawrence J Appel, George A bray, David Harsha, Eva Obarzanek, Paul R Conlin, Edgar R Miller, Denise G Simmons-Morton, Njeri Karanja and Pao-Hwa Lin. 1, s.l. : The New England Journal of Medicine, 2001, Vol. 344.
  3. Associations between food and beverage groups and major diet-related chronic diseases: an exhaustive review of pooled/meta-analyses and systematic reviews. Boirie, Anthony Fardet and Yves. 12, s.l. : Nutrition Reviews, 2014, Vol. 72.
  4. The effect of coffee on blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in hypertensive individuals: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Arthur Eumann Mesas, Luz M Leon-Mun˜oz, Fernando Rodriguez-Artalejo, and Esther Lopez-Garcia. s.l. : American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2011. 10.3945/ajcn.111.016667.
  5. Effects of Protein, Monounsaturated Fat, and Carbohydrate Intake on Blood Pressure and Serum Lipids: Results of the OmniHeart Randomized Trial. Lawrence J. Appel, Frank M. Sacks, Vincent J. Carey, Eva Obarzanek, Janis F. Swain, Edgar R. Miller III, Paul R. Conlin, Thomas P. Erlinger, Bernard A. Rosner, Nancy M. Laranjo, Jeanne Charleston, Phyllis McCarron and Louise M. Bishop. 19, s.l. : JAMA, 2005, Vol. 204.
  6. A systematic review and meta-analysis of elevated blood pressure and consumption of dairy foods. RA Ralston, JH Lee, H Truby, CE Palermo and KZ Walker. s.l. : Journal of Human Hypertension, 2012, Vol. 26.
  7. Effects of Low Habitual Cocoa Intake on Blood Pressure and Bioactive Nitric Oxide: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Dirk Taubert, Renate Roesen, Clara Lehmann, Norma Jung and Edgar Scho¨ mig. 1, s.l. : Journal of the American Medical Association, 2007, Vol. 298.
  8. [Online] http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Research/Meta-analysis-supports-pomegranate-juice-s-blood-pressure-benefits?utm_source=newsletter_daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=13-Jan-2017&c=E0wZmSvXA1A4MBsjNsqKnrACKlZ9vVCM&p2=.
  9. Relation of iron and red meat intake to blood pressure: cross sectional epidemiological study. Ioanna Tzoulaki, Ian J Brown, Queenie Chan, Linda Van Horn, Hirotsugu Ueshima, Liancheng Zhao, Jeremiah Stamler and Paul Elliott. s.l. : BMJ, 2008, Vol. 337. doi:10.1136/bmj.a258.