There are reams of research showing that simple diet and lifestyle modifications can result in meaningful reductions in your blood pressure—without drugs.
Of course, I’m referring to the lifestyle approaches that help reduce the stress that can wreak havoc with blood pressure—like meditation, yoga, guided-imagery, and massage. And when it comes to what you eat, hundreds of studies show that the Mediterranean diet is a powerful way to help keep your blood pressure in check.
But there’s less research on how individual foods affect blood pressure. That’s why I was interested to see a new study which found that plant compounds called flavanols can significantly lower blood pressure.1
Researchers looked at just over 25,600 participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) Norfolk U.K. study, and correlated their diets with their blood pressure levels. In contrast to prior studies that relied on self-reported diets, these researchers measured the participants’ flavanol intake directly by examining indicators present in the blood.
Results showed there was a 2 to 4 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure (the top number on a reading) in the 10 percent of participants with the highest flavanol intake, compared to the 10 percent with the lowest intake. That’s considered a significant drop in blood pressure—simply by eating more foods with flavanols!
Flavanols are found in a variety of plants, but the researchers noted that the study participants’ flavanol biomarkers were highest after they ate five particular foods or beverages: apples, berries, chocolate, red wine, and tea.
But even among these foods, the researchers cautioned that not all flavanols are created equal. They noted that there’s a large degree of variability in the quality and composition of foods that are considered main sources of flavanols.
For example, the researchers cited food-composition data for black tea showing that flavanol content can range from 3 mg to 64 mg per cup. That’s just one reason why I advise choosing organic foods, which have been shown in studies to have higher and more consistent nutritional content.
(And, when it comes to tea, there are many other nutrient uncertainties depending upon cultivation, harvesting, processing, packaging, and brewing procedures. In addition, tea is high in tannic acid, which is irritating to the gastrointestinal tract, and oxalic acid, which causes kidney stones.)
That’s why I recommend you get your flavanols, and other beneficial plant constituents, mainly from chocolate (see page 4), berries, apples, and red wine instead. After all, it’s another easy—and delicious—way to naturally lower your blood pressure!
1“Biomarker-estimated flavan-3-ol intake is associated with lower blood pressure in cross-sectional analysis in EPIC Norfolk.” Sci Rep10, 17964 (2020).