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Plant Protein, Lower Blood Pressure

British researchers have found that those who get more protein from non-meat sources (vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, etc.) tend to have lower blood pressure than their more carnivorous peers.

Dietary intake data was matched against blood pressure measurements for 4,680 middle-aged and older subjects over a six-week period. What emerged from this analysis was a strong inverse relationship between higher intakes of plant-based protein and lower rates of blood pressure. These results may help explain why a previous Mayo Clinic analysis found a 30% lower risk of death from heart disease among post-menopausal women who consumed high amounts of vegetarian protein sources.

How much protein do you need — and what are the healthiest plant sources? Thegeneral rule of thumb is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, which works out to about 44 grams for a 120 pound woman, or 55 grams for a 150 pound man. When you think of “veg protein,” soy products probably spring to mind — and indeed, a cup of cooked soybeans provides a hefty 28 grams of protein. But you might be surprised to learn that a cup of wild rice provides 7 grams, a cup of white beans provides 19 grams, a cup of cooked spinach provides 5 grams, an ounce of peanuts provide 8 grams, while a cup of cooked broccoli (or Brussels sprouts) provide 4 grams. Try our featured recipe, “Fettuccine with Figs and Chiles,” which provides a whopping 12 grams of vegetable protein.

While your chances of developing hypertension increase with age, blood pressure is also on the rise among America’s youth. African-Americans are at higher risk of developing blood pressure than other ethnic groups. Diet, lifestyle and activity levels greatly influence hypertension risk. Lose excess weight, increase exercise, reduce salt intake, and reach for potassium sources such as dates, raisins, potatoes and bananas.

Bonus: Japanese researchers found that walking just an hour and fifteen minutes per week — the equivalent of three 25-minute walks — was enough to lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Published May 1, 2007


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