When I begin to see all of the local produce coming in at the farmer’s markets, I immediately think cold, blended soup.
Cold blended soups are an easy meal alternative in the hotter months. These soups are not only full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients, they can also help lower your blood pressure.
Two of my favorites are gazpacho and energy soups.
According to a medical review by Judith Marcin, M.D. on Healthline.com, “Due to the recent changes in guidelines, nearly half of American adults will now be characterized as having high blood pressure. Experts recommend treating the condition with lifestyle changes and medications.”
Lifestyle changes include exercise, stress reduction and changing your diet. I am a proponent of taking the lifestyle changes road to lower blood pressure.
A variety of vegetables and fruits can help to lower your blood pressure naturally. The effects of gazpacho consumption on cardiovascular risk factors in nearly 4,000 people was the subject of a 2016 research paper, published in the journal “Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases.” Led by Alexander Medina-Remon from the University of Barcelona, Spain, the study finds that consumption of the cold vegetable soup is inversely associated with the incidence of high blood pressure (hypertension), which itself is “an unequivocal risk factor for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, and is the main risk factor for stroke in both men and women.”
Medina-Remon noted that previous clinical and epidemiological studies have linked consumption of gazpacho’s main ingredients — such as tomato, cucumber, garlic, olive oil — to reductions in arterial blood pressure.
“The new scientific study states for the first time that a regular consumption of gazpacho is as beneficial as the consumption of its ingredients individually; so gazpacho can reduce hypertension,” he said. “The final balance of the bio-active elements of gazpacho and its salt content makes it to be cardio-healthy; in other words, at the end, the positive effects of all the ingredients that contribute to the reduction of arterial pressure prevails over salt’s effect.”
The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) has been studied since 1997 as a beneficial diet for lowering blood pressure. It emphasizes fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, fish, poultry and low-fat dairy. It limits red meats, processed foods, sugary drinks and alcohol. Clinical trials have found the DASH diet to be most effective at lowering systolic and diastolic pressure, according to a 2016 review in the magazine, Hypertension.
The DASH diet contains more nutrients that may help lower blood pressure than the typical American diet, such as potassium, magnesium, calcium and dietary fiber. And it naturally lowers sodium intake — a mineral thought to increase fluid retention and inflammation — by limiting packaged foods like chips and processed meats.
According to Dr. Michael Murray in his book “The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods,” the mineral salts potassium, sodium and chloride are key in regulating blood pressure in the body. They are electrolytes, which are always found in pairs. A positive molecule, such as sodium or potassium, is always accompanied by a negative molecule, such as chloride. Together, according to Dr. Murray, electrolytes function in the maintenance of:
- Water balance and distribution
- Kidney and adrenal function
- Acid-base balance
- Muscle and nerve cell function
- Heart function
The normal functioning of the sodium-potassium pump is essential to maintaining normal blood pressure. The cells pump sodium out and potassium in. If sodium is not pumped out, water accumulates within the cell, causing it to swell and burst. This action affects kidney function and electrolyte balance in the body.
This potassium concept of food is important, but so too is the proper balance of sodium and potassium consumption. Although sodium and chloride are important, potassium is the most important dietary electrolyte.
According to Murray, “Numerous studies show that sodium restriction alone does not improve blood pressure control in most people — it must be accompanied by a high potassium intake. In our society only 5 percent of sodium intake comes from the natural ingredients in food. Prepared foods provide 45 percent of our sodium intake, cooking adds 45 percent, and condiments contribute 5 percent. Many people have already learned to watch their salt intake, but we’d like to encourage you to increase your potassium intake as well.
“Most Americans have a potassium-to-sodium ratio of less than 1 to 2. This means most people ingest twice as much sodium as potassium. It is recommended for people to have a ratio greater than 5 to 1 to maintain health. This is ten times higher than the average intake. ... A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can produce a potassium-to-sodium ratio greater than 100:1 because most fruits and vegetables have a ratio of at least 50:1.”
The blended soup recipes here are rich in these electrolytes. You can create your own combinations and watch the improvements in your blood pressure. Adding the recommendations of the DASH diet by using more plant-based options increases the benefits even more. Make sure you speak with your doctor about your diet change if you are on medication. Your medication may need to be adjusted as your numbers change.