High blood pressure can be a silent killer. Sure, this health condition is subtle and can sneak up on you. But if you don’t get high blood pressure (or hypertension) under control, it can potentially lead to heart disease and strokes. Fortunately, if you’ve been trying to lower your blood pressure, food can play a helpful role. And now, new research suggests that a combination of diverse gut bacteria and flavonoid-rich foods just might be the key to achieving lower blood pressure.
Here’s how flavonoid-rich foods and your own gut bacteria can work together to have a positive impact on high blood pressure.
Flavonoids are great for your heart health
Flavonoids are potent antioxidants that occur naturally in many fruits and veggies. You’ll also find flavonoids in tea, chocolate and red wine. And while there are different types of flavonoids, all of these natural compounds offer benefits like warding off toxins, decreasing your risk for some chronic health conditions and fighting free radicals.
When you eat flavonoid-rich foods, you’re taking in extra antioxidants. All of those flavonoids get to work fighting off potentially harmful influences and intruders, but they’re particularly great at fighting the allergens, germs and other irritants that trigger inflammation. Getting a lot of flavonoids can help you lower your body’s inflammatory reaction to these problem-causers – or even avoid it altogether.
And flavonoids are also fantastic for your heart health. Research indicates that flavonoid-rich foods have a positive effect on high blood pressure and they may be able to help you lower and manage your blood pressure. Plus, a 2015 research study found that certain flavonoids (specifically, those found in tea, coffee and soy) may lower your risk of a cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke. Higher flavonoid intake correlated to an overall lower risk of these dangers.
Your gut makes flavonoid-rich foods even better for you
So, flavonoids can have a positive impact on your overall health and your heart health. But they might have even bigger benefits if you combine flavonoid-rich foods with a healthy gut.
Flavonoids, when consumed, are broken down by your gut microbiome and the bacteria present there. And a 2021 research study published in the American Heart Association’s Hypertension journal found evidence that having a diverse mix of bacteria present in your gut just might enhance the potential cardiovascular benefits of eating flavonoid-rich foods.
In this study, researchers examined a group of 904 adults between the ages of 25 and 82 in Germany. They took a look at each participant’s diet, gut microbiome and blood pressure levels. That analysis found that the participants who had the highest intake of flavonoid-rich foods also had lower systolic blood pressure – and they also had greater bacterial diversity in their microbiomes.
Researchers also found that there was a significant connection between gut health and flavonoid-rich foods when it came to blood pressure levels. As much as 15.2 percent of the positive (and lowering) effect flavonoid-rich foods have on high blood pressure is related to the diversity of an individual’s gut bacteria.
How, exactly, does gut bacteria play such a positive role in blood pressure levels? The study’s researchers point to the gut’s role in metabolizing the flavonoids you eat. As your gut breaks down flavonoids, it’s the bacteria present there that determine how your body uses them. And your unique gut bacterial diversity can offer you more cardiovascular benefits – or fewer.
Which flavonoid-rich foods have the biggest impact?
While you can’t control how your body metabolizes the flavonoids you eat, this research does offer a few helpful tips that may help you manage high blood pressure.
First and foremost, we know there’s a connection between a diverse microbiome and better flavonoid metabolization. You can easily change and improve your bacteria balance with prebiotics and probiotics, either in supplement form or through prebiotic- and probiotic-rich foods.
And in addition to working towards better diversity in your microbiome, you can also up your intake of flavonoid-rich foods. The research study actually focused on specific flavonoid-filled foods, and the results indicated that participants who ate berries, apples and pears saw particularly positive blood pressure results. The results suggested that eating 1.6 servings of berries each day (or 1.6 cups) was associated with a 4.1 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure levels on average.
Red wine was also a beneficial beverage – the study’s results showed that drinking 2.8 glasses (or 350 ml of wine total) each week was associated with a 3.7 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure on average. While there are potential benefits of sipping red wine, though, it’s a good idea to consider the benefits and risks of alcohol before you pour yourself some each week.
Overall, the right combination of good gut bacteria and plenty of flavonoid-rich foods may be able to help you better manage – or even lower – high blood pressure. To get more flavonoids in your diet, keep reading: