Improving your diet is a surefire way to improve your cardiovascular health, but there’s one dairy food that appears to beat all others when it comes to protecting against high blood pressure.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects around one in three Australians and is a leading cause of stroke, coronary heart disease, heart failure and chronic kidney disease. The condition is often caused by eating a diet high in sodium.
Reducing the amount of salt in your diet can produce a dramatic improvement in blood pressure levels, as can eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.
Dairy foods are not often associated with improved heart health as they are high in LDL cholesterol, often referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’.
But new research from the University of South Australia, in collaboration with the University of Maine, has revealed that yoghurt can deliver a particularly strong protective effect against high blood pressure.
“High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, so it’s important that we continue to find ways to reduce and regulate it,” says study co-author Dr Alexandra Wade.
“Dairy foods, especially yoghurt, may be capable of reducing blood pressure. This is because dairy foods contain a range of micronutrients, including calcium, magnesium and potassium, all of which are involved in the regulation of blood pressure.”
The study looked at 915 adults selected from the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study, which measured the health outcomes of participants over a long period (typically decades).
Participants’ yoghurt consumption was measured using a food frequency questionnaire and high blood pressure was defined as being equal to or greater than 140/90. The researchers considered normal blood pressure to be around 120/80.
The results showed consuming even a small amount of yoghurt could have a dampening effect on blood pressure levels. Participants who ate yoghurt daily saw the most improvement.
“This study showed for people with elevated blood pressure, even small amounts of yoghurt were associated with lower blood pressure,” Dr Wade says.
“And for those who consumed yoghurt regularly, the results were even stronger, with blood pressure readings nearly seven points lower than those who did not consume yoghurt.”
Not all yoghurts are created equal however, and not all yoghurts are good for your heart.
In general, look for unsweetened and unflavoured yoghurt brands and varieties as the sugar in some brands can cancel out any potential heart benefits.
The previously mentioned LDL cholesterol is also something to look out for, with reduced-fat or no-fat options best for your heart.
The Heart Foundation suggests “milk, yoghurt and cheese can be eaten as part of a heart-healthy diet, but most of the fat in the diet should come from fish, nuts and seeds, and healthy oils.”
Do you regularly include yoghurt in your diet? Would you consider adding more after reading about the potential benefits? Let us know in the comments section below.
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