Scientists have come upon an interesting discovery of how two types of foods work together to lower blood pressure, thereby improving heart health. Their research may help to explain the long-known cardiovascular benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean diet is based on the dietary staples of cultures living around the Mediterranean Sea, including the nations of Italy and Greece. Some of these staples include fish, fruits and vegetables, nuts and the plentiful use of olive oil.
Professor Philip Eaton of King’s College London, along with researchers from the University of California, examined how unsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil and nuts, interacted with the nitrates and nitrites found in certain vegetables, including leafy greens. In a study using mice, the researchers found that the combination helped to lower blood pressure.
Professor Eaton explains: “When unsaturated fatty acids, found in olive, nuts and fish oils, are eaten together with a source of nitrate or nitrite, found in vegetables such as beetroot and those with green leaves, they form nitro fatty acids in the body.” The study found that the nitro fatty acids worked to block an enzyme known as epoxide hydrolase, which in turn relaxed blood vessels and lowered blood pressure.
According to Connie Diekman of Washington University, St. Louis: “This study provides insights on the mechanics behind how eating vegetables aids in the reduction of the risk of (high blood pressure).” She also points to previous research performed on humans that has linked the combination of “plant foods and unsaturated fats” to lowered blood pressure levels.
While more research is still needed into this, and the current study was performed on mice, Professor Eaton hypothesizes that it will likely hold true for humans as well, since they also have the epoxide hydrolase enzyme.
For a truly healthy, balanced diet, variety is key. No one food – or even food pairing – is a perfect recipe for great health. It is more about embracing the benefits that many whole, nutritious foods offer – fruits and vegetables of all colors, healthy fats and organic proteins.
However, this study certainly demonstrates that nuts, seeds and olive oil, along with greens, beets and other nitrate-rich veggies, definitely deserve a place side by side on the dinner plate.
-The Alternative Daily