Eating fruits and vegetables has been shown to improve immune function and prevent disease, but now researchers around the world are finding heart-healthy benefits from basic foodstuffs.
The American Heart Association just released a study showing that drinking Hibiscus Tea can significantly lower blood pressure. Known as Red Sorrel in Jamaican groceries, Hibiscus sabdariffa is made into beverages in many countries around the world, from Africa to Asia to the Caribbean islands.
The exact pathway is not known but it’s suspected that the chemical anthocyanins improve the function of blood vessels build collagen to build healthy tissues and vessels. Anthocyanins are a type of antioxidants. Even Andrew Weil, known integrative medicine doctor, has commented on the promise of treating blood pressure with hibiscus.
The study was conducted on 65 subjects between the ages of 30 and 70, who had a history of high blood pressure and an increased risk of kidney disease or stroke. The subject drank either hibiscus tea or a placebo three times a day for six weeks. The systolic blood pressure of the study participants showed an average reduction of seven percent, compared to only 1.3% in the placebo group. Some of the hibiscus tea drinkers reported over 13% reduction in their diastolic blood pressure levels.
And then there are grapes. The University of Michigan studied the effects of regular table grapes—red, green and black—on blood pressure. A study published in the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences, reported that a group of rats, genetically predisposed to develop high blood pressure, were fed powdered grapes in a combination of colors. They were also given either a low or high salt diet for 18 weeks. The control group ate a diet supplemented with the blood pressure medication, hydrazine.
The study results showed that the rats on the high salt diet had lower blood pressure when consuming either grape powder or hydrazine. The rats eating the grape diet also showed less inflammation and had better heart function. The scientists suspect the active ingredient causing the health benefits is the antioxidant effect of the flavonoids in the grapes. This research concluded that grapes, in addition to providing the health benefits contained in most fruits and vegetables, have a specific impact on improving cardiovascular risk.
Eggs, long thought to clog arteries with cholesterol may, in fact, improve cardiac health. Though consumption of eggs has decreased over the last 40 years because of their association with increasing heart disease, egg lovers can rejoice. A protein in the eggs has the same action as a group of prescription blood pressure medication. The effect was triggered by the eggs’ natural ACE-inhibitors. Research was conducted at the University of Alberta in Canada on both fried and boiled eggs. The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported that fried eggs proved to have a stronger ACE-inhibiting effect.
Enzymes in the stomach and small intestines produce peptides to digest the eggs, which stimulate the release of blood pressure lowering substances. These studies were conducted on livestock and further research will now be conducted on humans. The natural foods community has long contended that free-range eggs contain the correct amount of lecithin to digest the natural cholesterol in eggs, making healthy eggs a healthy food. The protein in eggs most closely matches the essential amino acid that humans need in our body. This research holds promise in restoring eggs to their rightful place as a good source of dietary protein.
Eggs, grapes, and herbal tea are healthy, natural foods that have now been found to contain healing benefits. Science is now learning that many plants used for foods have powerful healing benefits. Research is proving what folk medicine around the world has long known. As mothers worldwide have told their young, “Eat your veggies.” (And your omelet!)