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The #1 Best Eating Habit for High Blood Pressure, Says New Study

When it comes to meal prep, you may want to switch it up sometimes—your heart will thank you.
FACT CHECKED BY Kristen Warfield

If you're worried about hypertension, there are plenty of lifestyle changes you can make to keep your blood pressure in check. You can keep the salt in your diet to a minimum, you can exercise regularly, you can take medications as recommended by your doctor, and you can try to steer clear of high-stress situations. However, fighting hypertension is not just a matter of setting good daily habits.

In fact, it turns out, when it comes to food, you might want to think less about finding your routine and more about switching things up: new research from the American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that varying the sources of protein in your diet may help lower your risk of high blood pressure.  

sweet and spicy glazed salmon
Waterbury Publications

In a new study recently published in the AHA's Hypertension monthly journal, researchers compared dietary information from over 12,000 participants in the China Health and Nutrition Survey to gather data regarding their blood pressure. They found that those whose protein came from a wider variety of sources were less likely to get hypertension.

Related: The #1 Best Juice to Drink Every Day, Says Science

It's worth noting that all the protein sources studied were food sources, not, say, protein powder.

"Our study was based on the dietary intake of diverse proteins, but not protein supplements," study author Xianhui Qin, M.D., of the National Clinical Research Center for Kidney Disease at Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, told Eat This, Not That! in an interview. "Our findings encourage the consumption of more kinds of dietary proteins in the appropriate quantities—that is, we should eat a balanced diet including proteins from a variety of sources."

Eating a wide variety of foods that are high in protein has the added benefit of bringing more nutrients into your diet.

"You have to remember that a protein-dominant food, like salmon, has other nutrients besides protein," Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert and co-author of Sugar Shock, told Eat This, Not That! "So, sticking with the salmon example, you're getting omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, B vitamins, etc. All protein-rich foods have nutrients, but they have varying amounts of them…That's why variety is important, and in this case, it seems to help prevent high blood pressure."

Not sure which foods to start with?

"I encourage a predominantly plant based protein intake including beans, lentils, peas, soy and nuts," recommends Victoria Goodman, DSC, RD, LDN, CLT. "Lean proteins, especially those rich in omega 3-fatty acids such as salmon, trout and sardines are highly recommended, along with the occasional intake of lean meats such as chicken, turkey, lean beef and eggs, all make for a balanced dietary intake with protein variety."

For additional suggestions of protein-packed foods to add to your diet, check out these Popular Foods With More Protein Than Beef.

Clara Olshansky
Clara Olshansky (they/she) is a Brooklyn-based writer and comic whose web content has appeared in Food & Wine, Harper’s Magazine, Men's Health, and Reductress. Read more about Clara
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