Current Dietary Guidelines encourage a shift to a plant-based eating plan. This recommendation is based on studies that have looked at the health benefits of a plant-based eating plan. A new study has looked at how plant-based eating may help to lower blood pressure. What exactly does it mean to consume a plant-based diet?
Plant-Based Eating may help Blood Pressure
Plant-based eating certainly does convey consume more plant foods but what it does not convey is what types of plant foods. For many people the other question is can you include animal foods to reap the health benefits? A recent study, in the British Medical Journal, looked at plant-based eating patterns in three countries to assess impact on blood pressure. The study found that there is an association, so not a cause and effect, between eating more, higher quality plant foods than either limited plant food intake or eating lower quality plant foods.
Quality of Plant-Based Eating
Researchers were interested in seeing if the nutritional quality of the plant food made a difference to the impact of the diet on blood pressure. The study classified grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts, tea, coffee, and oils as higher quality plant foods. Fruit juice, refined grains, sugar-sweetened beverages, potatoes and sweets and desserts were classified as lower quality plant foods in terms of the nutrition content. Animal food intake, including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy foods, was assessed in relationship to the amount in the total diet.
Making the Shift to More Plant-based Foods
The observation from the study was that diets with more higher quality plant foods, even if they still contained animal foods, were associated with lower blood pressure levels. More research is needed to determine a real cause/effect outcome but this study does mimic the science behind the DASH Diet, which has long been recommended for blood pressure lowering. The nutritional quality of the plant foods identified as higher quality in this new study, mimic the DASH Diet observation that potassium, phosphorous, magnesium and some other minerals found in plant foods, help with blood pressure regulation.
To Your Health!
The good news is that you do not have to eliminate animal foods to have a healthful eating plan. Use this study as motivation to begin to shift the balance of plant and animal foods in your meals. Try whole wheat pasta with veggies, beans, and a topping of cheese. You might also like a bowl of oatmeal topped with fresh fruit, chopped walnuts and a dollop of low-fat yogurt. A snack of chopped nuts and dried fruit can be portable and a good replacement for chips. Most importantly – find an eating plan, built around plant foods, that is enjoyable and something that you can make your routine.
About Connie – Connie is a Registered Dietitian with extensive experience communicating in the food and nutrition space. Taking the science of food and nutrition and translating it to simple messages, new products, or exciting menus is her expertise. Making nutrition messages clear, accurate, and engaging aids all consumers.