Study: Protein Variety May Lower Hypertension Risk

By Jillian Levy, CHHC


A diet rich in protein is linked to a number of health benefits for both middle-aged and older adults, including help with weight management, bone health and retention of muscle mass.


Can protein lower high blood pressure? It seems that eating different types of protein sources, including both plant and animal proteins, is the key to supporting heart health.


Research suggests the opposite is also true: Eating too much of one type of protein, especially red meat and processed meat, can increase the risk for health problems, including hypertension.


Study: Protein Variety May Lower Hypertension Risk

A 2022 study published in the journal Hypertension sought out to determine the relationships between variety of protein sources in people’s diets and their risk for developing hypertension (high blood pressure). The study included more than 12,100 participants who completed the China Health and Nutrition Survey.


Researchers involved in the study tracked participants’ protein intake over the course of three days, specifically the variety and quantity of proteins that people consumed from eight major food sources. Six years later, researchers followed up with the participants to record who developed hypertension, defined as systolic blood pressure ≥140 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure ≥90 mm, or physician-diagnosed hypertension.


Findings showed that there was a significantly lower risk of developing hypertension (about 66% less risk) among those with higher variety of protein sources in their diets, including a mix of fish, eggs, poultry, legumes, whole grains and small amounts of meat.


For the best protection against hypertension, people needed to consume at least four different protein sources throughout the week. Too many refined grains, red meat and processed meat, and even high amounts of whole grains and poultry without enough inclusion of other foods, was found to be linked to higher hypertension risk.


As the study explains, “for each protein, there is a window of consumption (appropriate level) where the risk of hypertension is lower. In summary, there was an inverse association between the variety of proteins with appropriate quantity from different food sources and new-onset hypertension.”


How to Add Protein Variety to Diet

Based on the above information, what protein is good for hypertension? It seems to be most important to mix up the types of proteins that you eat, such as by eating plenty of plant proteins (like legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds) and also small to moderate amounts of animal proteins (like meat, fish, eggs and poultry).


Overall, the best type of diet for high blood pressure is one that is high in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Studies show that people who follow the DASH diet or Mediterranean diet (or both combined, called the MIND diet) tend to benefit from the best cardiovascular health.


Specifically, it’s important to avoid eating a high-sodium/salt diet and to eat plenty of potassium-rich foods to maintain normal blood pressure, such as leafy greens, avocado, bananas, potatoes, oranges and yogurt. Refined grains and processed meats should also be avoided.


Below are foods that help lower blood pressure, including protein foods from a variety of sources:


Legumes and beans, including black beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc.

Veggies, including leafy greens like spinach and kale, broccoli, beets, celery, tomatoes, potatoes, avocado, and so on

Fruits, including berries, bananas and melon

Nuts, such as pistachios, walnuts and almonds

Seeds, including flax, hemp, chia, sunflower seeds, etc.

Whole grains, such as oats, quinoa, brown rice and buckwheat

Olive oil, sesame oil, flax oil and avocado oil

Dark chocolate

Unsweetened dairy products, such as yogurt and kefir

Wild-caught fish

Cage-free eggs

Pasture-raised poultry

Small amounts of grass-fed meats

Other Tips for Blood Pressure Maintenance

What else reduces the risk of hypertension? Here are some natural ways to lower blood pressure using healthy lifestyle changes:


Get enough exercise, including a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training.

Quit smoking and don’t overconsume alcohol.

Manage stress by engaging in relaxing activities, like spending time outdoors, reading, meditating, yoga, journaling, etc.

Consider taking fish oil, which is high in EPA and DHA forms of omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce inflammation.

Also try supplementing with magnesium and coenzyme Q10, which is an antioxidant critical for supporting heart health.

Try using essential oils, including black pepper essential oil, alpinia zerumbet oil, bougriba oil and valerian oil.

Conclusion

Does protein cause hypertension? A new study found that protein variety may lower hypertension risk.

Diets that include a variety of protein sources, both plants and protein, tend to protect against high blood pressure/hypertension the best.

To aid in heart health, mix up the types of proteins that you eat, such as by eating legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, grass-fed meat, fish, eggs and poultry.