Adding This Fruit to Your Diet May Help Lower Blood Pressure
One in three women dies of heart disease in the United States, making it our number one killer. And when we get to the other side of menopause, our risk rises. Many of us see our blood pressure numbers climb, and as we lose estrogen’s protective effect, our arteries stiffen.
Fortunately, there are many things we can do to help prevent heart disease: engage in regular exercise, lower stress, and follow a healthy diet plan that includes fish, whole grains, beans, nuts, lots of vegetables and fruits, and, perhaps most importantly—a cup of blueberries a day.
In a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers at Florida State University studied 48 postmenopausal women with pre- and stage-1 hypertension for eight weeks. The women were randomly given either a daily dose of blueberry powder equal to 1 cup of fresh blueberries or an equivalent amount of a placebo powder and asked to continue with their usual diet and workout plans.
At the end of the 8 weeks, the researchers measured three markers of cardiovascular health and found improvements in all three among the blueberry eaters, but no change in the placebo group.
Systolic blood pressure (the top number) dropped an average of 5.1 percent among the blueberry eaters, and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) dropped an average of 6.3 percent.
Researchers found a 6.5 percent reduction in stiffness for the blueberry group.
Higher levels of nitric oxide in the blood are an indicator of widening of the arteries and when arteries widen, blood pressure drops. At the end of the 8-week period, nitric oxide had increased by 68.5 percent among the women who consumed the blueberry powder.
Though more research is needed to confirm these results, it certainly can’t hurt for you to bring more blueberries into your healthy diet. In addition to their heart healthy benefits, blueberries contain disease-fighting antioxidants, particularly vitamin C. They also serve a hefty dose of vitamin A and fiber–all this for only 84 calories per cup, making them a great part of a weight loss eating plan, too. Of course, one of the best ways to enjoy blueberries is to simply pop them fresh into your mouth one after another. Here are some other suggestions for savoring your daily cup:
- Sprinkle blueberries on cold oat cereal or swap raisins for blueberries in warm oatmeal. You’ll get the blueberry benefit, plus the soluble fiber in oats helps lower cholesterol.
- Mix blueberries into nonfat Greek yogurt for a sweet and tangy snack.
- Add frozen or fresh berries into your favorite smoothie base. In place of cake or ice cream, eat blueberries topped with a dollop of whipped cream (or better, vanilla flavored Greek yogurt) for dessert.
- Top your fish or chicken with a tangy blueberry or strawberry sauce.
- For a snack, eat yogurt-covered blueberries or strawberries. You can make them yourself by dipping fresh strawberries and blueberries in Greek yogurt and freezing them for 45 minutes.
- Prepare a salad with blueberries, walnuts, and mixed greens. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol. And dark greens such as spinach and kale are rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Now that’s a delicious way to watch your blood pressure, don’t you think?
**The information contained above is presented in summary form only and intended to provide broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various healthcare topics. It should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation or advice of your doctor or other healthcare provider. You should discuss any dietary changes or supplement usage with your doctor, and should not discontinue any prescription medications without first consulting your doctor.