Most of us with high blood pressure try to eat right to get our numbers down.
We avoid salt. Try to lose weight. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Maybe we add more potassium to our diet.
But a large new study shows that it’s not only what we eat that’s important…it’s how we cook it.
Researchers at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health looked at how cooking methods affect the risk of developing hypertension. They followed over 100,000 adults.1
The participants were all involved in the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study, which started in 1976.
Charred Food Leads to High Blood Pressure
The analysis revealed heightened blood pressure risk in people who regularly eat grilled or broiled meats and fish and like them well done. Specifically, the study found hypertension risk was:
- 17% higher in those who ate grilled or broiled beef, chicken, or fish more than 15 times a month compared to people who ate it less than four times a month.
- 15% higher in those who prefer their food well done.
- 17% higher in those who ate the highest levels of heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs). These are the chemicals formed when meat is charred.
The study found that these relationships were independent of the amount of food a person consumed.
Dr. Gang Liu is a research fellow in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He led the study.
“Our findings suggest that it may help reduce the risk of high blood pressure if you don’t eat foods cooked well done and avoid the use of open-flame and/or high-temperature cooking methods, including grilling/barbecuing and broiling,” he said.
When meat or fish is charred, it produces chemicals that cause oxidative stress, inflammation, and insulin resistance, Dr. Liu said. “These pathways may lead to an elevated risk of developing high blood pressure.”2
Oxidative stress, inflammation, and insulin resistance damage the inner linings of blood vessels. This leads to atherosclerosis, which is hardening of the arteries. When arteries become narrower, blood pressure rises.3
Dr. Liu recently presented his findings at an American Heart Association meeting in New Orleans.
Blood Pressure Meds Linked to Dementia and Cancer
Mainstream medicine’s solution to high blood pressure comes down to one word: Pills.
About a third of American adults have high blood pressure. And about 70% of those who know they have it are prescribed hypertension drugs.4
But these medications often cause serious side effects. Common ones include constipation, headaches, erectile dysfunction, drowsiness, and dry cough. Some studies link them to dementia and cancer.5
4 Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure Without Pills
Why take risky pills if you don’t have to? In addition to not charring your food, take these natural steps to bring your blood pressure down to a normal range:
- Eat foods rich in potassium. Multiple studies show that foods high in potassium lower blood pressure. The mineral allows your body to excrete sodium, which causes your blood pressure to drop. It is similar to putting yourself on a low-sodium diet.Potassium-rich foods include avocados, wild-caught salmon, spinach, sweet potato, and coconut water. All of these have more potassium than bananas, which people often eat to get the nutrient.
- Take grape seed extract. An Italian study found taking grape seed extract can decrease your systolic (upper number) blood pressure by 21 to 28 points in just one month.After four months of being on grape seed extract, 93% of study subjects no longer had high blood pressure. Grape seed extract is available at health food stores and online.
- Keep the weight off. A University of Alabama study looked at five lifestyle factors associated with high blood pressure: smoking, diet, exercise, drinking, and body weight. They found that body weight was by far the most important.People who keep a healthy body weight are 41% less likely to have high blood pressure. All the other lifestyle factors combined lessened hypertension risk by only 27%.
- Take saunas. A Finnish study found that regular sauna users had cut their risk of high blood pressure in half.Saunas reduce stress and raise your body temperature. This causes your blood vessels to open, which reduces blood pressure.
If you’re worried about your blood pressure, there’s something else you should know…
Something strange was happening to pilots training to fly F-16 fighter jets. The ones who went into the program with elevated blood pressure were coming out a few weeks later with normal, healthy readings.
They hadn’t taken any medications… Their diets hadn’t changed… And they hadn’t made any changes to their exercise regimens.