These Foods Might Support Healthy Blood Pressure Levels (Through Your Gut)
What makes a food a healthy standout? Well, at mbg, we seek out foods that have a concentration of nutrients and phytonutrients we need—such as antioxidants, like polyphenols. One group of polyphenols, known as flavonoids, are pigments found in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains. And now a new study suggests they might be a powerful force in helping support blood pressure—through our gut health, no less.
The link between flavonoids, the gut, and blood pressure.
The research, which was published this week in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, found that foods with high concentrations of flavonoids may have a positive impact on blood pressure—and that impact may be explained by how they influence the gut microbiome.
"Our gut microbiome plays a key role in metabolizing flavonoids to enhance their cardioprotective effects," says Aedín Cassidy, Ph.D., lead investigator on the study and professor in nutrition and preventive medicine at the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's University in Belfast. And this latest study is evidence that healthy blood pressure levels can be positively affected by small, obtainable changes in our daily nutrition.
As mentioned above, flavonoids are found naturally in plant foods, but especially in berries, apples, pears, tea, chocolate, and wine. For this study, researchers considered the food intake, gut microbiome, and blood pressure levels of a group of just over 900 participants aged 25 to 82—while also taking into account other clinical and molecular phenotyping.
They found that participants who had the highest flavonoid intake—measured by their intake of foods such as berries, red wine, apples, and pears—had lower (healthier) systolic blood pressure and a more diverse gut microbiome than those who did not consume as many flavonoid-rich foods. The researchers attribute at least 15% of the link between flavonoids and blood pressure to the health of the gut microbiome, specifically by that diversity of bacteria they found.
"Our findings indicate future trials should look at participants according to metabolic profile in order to more accurately study the roles of metabolism and the gut microbiome in regulating the effects of flavonoids on blood pressure," suggested Cassidy.
Other ways to help maintain healthy blood pressure levels.
A lot of research has investigated interventions to help maintain healthy blood pressure levels—and they go beyond what we eat. For example, previous studies have observed the beneficial effects of a 30-minute stretching routine or regular hot baths.
Back in the kitchen, though, picking plant-based proteins and eating at least half a cup of leafy greens per day have been linked to better cardiovascular outcomes, and just over half a tablespoon of olive oil in your diet each day might also help promote heart health.
Eliza Sullivan is an SEO Editor at mindbodygreen, where she writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She received a B.S. in journalism and B.A. in english literature with honors from Boston University, and she has previously written for Boston Magazine, TheTaste.ie, and SUITCASE magazine.