Here is the flagship food to put on your plate to lower your blood pressure

It's no secret: the foods you eat can influence your blood pressure, and therefore the risk of heart disease and cerebrovascular disease. It is indeed advisable to moderate your consumption of industrial culinary preparations, cold meats and processed foods in general or to avoid the use of ready-made sauces and culinary cubes. These foods have in common their salt content which, when consumed in too large a quantity (do not exceed 2g of sodium per day according to WHO recommendations), leads the body to accumulate a greater quantity of water, a phenomenon responsible for an increase in blood pressure. Conversely, our diet should give pride of place to fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and varied sources of protein, including fish and plant sources such as legumes. The goal is to benefit from their multiple benefits such as their richness in fiber and anti-inflammatory and antioxidant molecules such as vitamin C and A, resveratrol and polyphenols.

But there is often a food that we don't necessarily think about despite its beneficial impact on heart health: beets, as demonstrated by a growing number of studies highlighting its “superpower”. This is indeed what dietician Shyla Cadogan, a graduate of the University of Maryland in nutrition and food sciences, wishes to point out in an article published on the StudyFinds site. This vegetable, known for its very mild and sweet taste and often consumed in the form of raw vegetables, should be included in your weekly menus as soon as it appears on the shelves to benefit from all its nutrients, in particular fiber, vitamin B9 and C, potassium and betalains (plant pigments with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers). But it also turns out that “ Beets are particularly high in nitrates, which can turn into nitric oxide once metabolized in your body's blood and tissues. Nitrates are compounds of nitrogen and oxygen and are abundant in leafy greens and other vegetables. »says the expert.

How Can Beets Help Lower Blood Pressure?

When we consume the nitrates present in vegetables, they are broken down by saliva during chewing into nitrites which are in turn transformed into nitric oxide, a powerful molecule having several effects on our body. Among other things, nitric oxide causes blood vessels to dilate, allowing for better blood flow and therefore more oxygen. A significant advantage regarding blood pressure according to Shyla Cadogan: “Nitric oxide is a molecule that the body is capable of producing itself. This is essential because it dilates blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure. Studies have shown that whole beets as well as beetroot juice have the ability to significantly reduce high blood pressure levels. Although both are likely to cause this beneficial effect, some research shows that raw beets may exert a stronger effect. » A study published in 2022 by researchers from the University of South Australia even affirmed that beetroot can prove useful for athletes who practice endurance exercises.

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An observation also shared by the IRBMS* which affirms that “ nitric oxide plays a role in vasodilation and peripheral oxygenation which can improve muscle oxygenation and therefore improve oxygen consumption and aerobic capacity by a few percentages unrelated to training. » Although the organization judges that this improvement must still be quantified by laboratories during scientific studies, it was not opposed to the idea that beetroot juice can be offered to athletes. Generally speaking, the Montreal Heart Institute estimates that vegetables can be grouped into three categories according to their nitrate content, knowing that vegetables with high levels belong to the families Brassicaceae (arugula), Chenopodiaceae (beetroot, spinach), Asteraceae (lettuce) and Apiaceae (celery). However, a question arises regarding the dangerousness of nitrates and nitrites since these compounds are best known for being added to cold meats in order to stabilize the color and flavor of meats, as well as to prevent the development of pathogenic microorganisms.

Aren't the nitrates in processed meat bad for your health?

It turns out that although nitrates and nitrites themselves are not carcinogenic, they are known to cause the formation of nitrosated compounds, some of which are carcinogenic (in particular there is an association with colorectal cancer) and genotoxic to be so. human. It is in reality the salting process which is mainly to blame, as well as cooking at high temperatures, according to the Montreal Heart Institute. What about vegetables in this case? “ Generally, the order is: nitrates then nitrites then nitrosamines. Vegetables are rich in vitamin C which may result in final conversion to blood pressure-friendly nitric oxide rather than nitrosamines.», replies the dietician. “ Nitrates in beets and other plant foods should not be confused with nitrate and nitrite additives found in processed meat, as these appear to act slightly differently in the body. Research shows that compounds in these meats may increase the risk of cancer, whereas this is not the case in plant foods. »

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By way of conclusion, the latter therefore considers that “ Beets are incredibly nutritious and can be a great addition to a balanced diet if you don't already eat them. If you want to include more of it in your diet, try different ways of consuming it to see what you enjoy the most. » Be careful however, nitrates are soluble in water, so it is recommended not to boil the beets as they risk dissolving. It is also important to remember that most beets on supermarket shelves are vacuum-packed: some brands boil them, others do not. Also, canned beets tend to be precooked, so their nitrate content is likely very low. It is therefore better to consume this vegetable raw or in the form of juice. Note, however, that beet juices and other supplements with a high nitrate content are obviously not a panacea and that it is better to have a global approach to taking care of your heart, that is to say, making exercise daily and adopt a healthy diet, such as Mediterranean style.

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