Lower Blood Pressure Naturally with Whole Grains

From oatmeal to a quinoa casserole, whole grains can work wonders for your blood pressure readings.

August 24, 2010

Show grains some love; they're great for cardiovascular health.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—We all know eating less salt is vital in mowing down high blood pressure levels. But a recent study suggests adding whole grains to your diet can put a significant dent in your blood pressure readings, too.

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THE DETAILS: The study, first published online in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, included about 200 middle-aged study participants who were either assigned to a regular diet, one including three servings of whole wheat foods a day, or one including two servings of oats and one of whole wheat, over a 12-week period. Researchers noticed that those who ate the higher whole grains diet enjoyed a 6-mmHG reduction in systolic blood pressure, which researchers say could reduce coronary artery disease by 15 percent and the risk of stroke by 25 percent.

WHAT IT MEANS: While there doesn't seem to be anything inherently exciting about oats, they are no joke. And neither are the other whole grains. A study published in the journal Circulation found that diabetic women who at the most bran, a component of whole wheat, enjoyed a 35 percent lower risk of cardiovascular death and a nearly 30 percent risk of death from any cause. The fact that they can also reduce blood pressure is just another reason to work more 100 percent whole wheat, oats, barley, and other grains into your daily routine.

Here's how to lower blood pressure naturally, using whole grains and other dietary healers.

• Go for variety. Choose 100 percent whole grain bread over white or multigrain loafs, and don't be afraid to incorporate organic, ancient grains like quinoa into the mix. It's supercheap, protein-packed, and easy to make. (Try our Quinoa and Vegetable Casserole recipe, and check out our Whole Grains Guide for more healthy recipe ideas.)

• Think beyond breakfast. Oatmeal and whole grain breads and cereals are great options, but there are grain recipes for any meal. For a new take on grains, try Quinoa Salad with Cherries and Pecans, Barley-Mushroom Bake, or Shrimp and Feta Tabbouleh.

• Pair grains with some tea. You've probably already heard that it's important to declare your independence from salt to lower your blood pressure, but did you know certain teas could also lower your BP? Research has found that hibiscus tea in particular can bring down blood pressure. Try adding 1 to 3 teaspoons of chopped or powdered hibiscus flowers per cup of boiling water, steep for two to five minutes, and strain before drinking. Enjoy up to three cups a day!