Diet can have a major impact on heart health and blood pressure. It was good to hear about the benefits of beetroot recently (Health Matters on Radio 4). Especially since this is one of the vegetables Chinese Medicine links to heart health and now we have endorsement through a randomised controlled trial (RCT).
There are a number of studies suggesting the benefits of dietary nitrates in the diet and ability to lower blood pressure. The study in 2015 led by Prof Amrita Ahluwalia, from the William Harvey Research Institute at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, showed that systolic blood pressure could drop by as much as 10mmHg by consuming beetroot juice daily. A 10mmHg reduction may reduce the risk of ischemic heart disease by 25% and stroke by 35%. The effects, however, are much reduced after about 24 hours. But don’t worry if you don’t like beetroot, there are other dark green leafy vegetables that are just as good.
Professor Amrita Ahluwalia, who led the research, said:
“This research has proven that a daily inorganic nitrate dose can be as effective as medical intervention in reducing blood pressure and the best part is we can get it from beetroot and other leafy green vegetables.”
“For those looking to work dietary nitrate into their daily diets, the trick is not to boil the vegetables – as dietary nitrate is water soluble – but steaming, roasting or drinking in a juice all has a positive effect.”
(research study details here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4288952/)
A list of nitrate rich vegetables can be found online. The highest foods are: rocket, spinach, lettuce, radish, beetroot and chinese cabbage. An 80g portion of this food will give you about 120mg of nitrates or 2 units. About 8 units per day is thought to have a positive heart effect – more than this does not confer any more benefit.
This video looks at amount of nitrates, effects on blood pressure as well althletic performance.
Here is a nourishing beetroot recipe in my blog: