Choose fruits with flavanols to lower blood pressure

What do tea, apples, raspberries and cocoa powder have in common?

They all contain high levels of flavanols, one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants.

Eating flavanol-rich foods will help you avoid cancer and heart disease. Flavanols strengthen your nervous system. They protect your cells from environmental pollutants and the effects of stress.

Flavanols belong to the flavonoid family of antioxidants. Anthocyanins are another member of this family you may have heard of.

Now, there’s evidence that people who eat their fill of flavanols can actually lower their blood pressure.

Eating flavanols reduces blood pressure

A study in the United Kingdom that involved more than 25,000 people took a look at what people ate, alongside their blood pressure readings.

But this study did it a little differently.

Most studies that investigate links between nutrition and health tend to rely on something called “self-reporting.” That’s where the subjects themselves report on what they recall having eaten.

The problem, of course, is that our memories aren’t perfect, and so self-reporting by study subjects can be less accurate.

So, in this study, instead of relying on subjects to keep track of what they ate, the researchers measured flavanol intake objectively. They used nutritional biomarkers, or indicators, present in the blood that reveal dietary intake, as well as overall nutritional status.

They found that there was a difference of as much as four mmHg in blood pressure between those subjects with the lowest 10 percent of flavanol intake and those with the highest 10 percent of intake.

This is comparable to blood pressure improvements seen by people who follow a Mediterranean diet, or a DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).

And, what’s really encouraging is that the positive effect that flavanols had on blood pressure was even more pronounced in those who already had hypertension, and especially needed to lower their numbers.

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Flavanols reduce arterial inflammation

When your arteries are inflamed, the heart has to strain too hard to pump blood through them, raising your blood pressure to dangerous heights.

Dr. Bradley Bale, medical director of the Grace Clinic Heart Health Program in Lubbock, Texas, explains it this way:

“Chronic arterial inflammation can put you on a fast track to developing vascular disease by speeding up the aging of your arteries. It’s so dangerous to the arterial lining that it’s worse than having high LDL cholesterol. And if your arteries are already clogged with plaque — which acts as kindling for a heart attack or stroke — inflammation is what lights the match.”

Flavanols take care of both these problems. Not only do they reduce arterial inflammation, but they reduce the number of adhesion molecules.

As the name implies, these molecules are the sites where plaque can stick to the arteries and cause the buildup that leads to high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack.

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Where to get your flavanols

Flavanols are found mainly, but not only, in fruits and vegetables.

It’s not hard to get a good amount of flavanols into your daily diet, especially this time of year.

Apples and pears have a lot of quercetin. Quercetin is a flavanol and supplement that inhibits the production of the cytokine molecules which trigger inflammation.

Other good food sources of quercetin include capers, cilantro, yellow and red onions, asparagus, kale and cocoa powder.

Other well-known flavonoids include resveratrol, pterostilbene and curcumin. These are also powerful antioxidant supplements.

Strawberries, red wine, black and green tea, tomatoes, green beans, broccoli, cranberries and blueberries are rich sources of flavanols that can be incorporated into your meals and recipes in a variety of ways.

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High flavanol diet may lead to lower blood pressure — Eureka Alert

Artery Inflammation: Six Simple, Lifesaving Tests — Bottom Line

Inflammation and Hypertension – Does Inflammation Cause High Blood Pressure? —

Flavanol-Rich Foods —

Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.