Drinking even small doses of beetroot juice can lower blood pressure, cutting the risk of heart disease and stroke, new research has revealed.
A previous study found that drinking 500ml of beetroot juice led to a reduction in blood pressure over 24 hours.
But this latest study at the University of Reading is the first to determine that the same effect could be gained from a smaller dose.
It was found that 100g dose of beetroot juice caused a significant lowering of blood pressure in the short-term (0 to 4 hours) and longer term (0 to 13 hours).
It was also found that bread enriched with either white or red beetroot had a similar effect.
This effect is attributed to the high nitrate content of the beetroot, a chemical that when ingested becomes nitric oxide which increases blood flow and keeps our blood pressure low.
The study also looked at the impact of betalains, the pigment responsible for the deep red colour of beetroot. It was found white beetroot, which does not contain betalin had the same ability to lower blood pressure.
Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, told HuffPost Lifestyle: “Although only involving 39 people, these findings do support earlier research associating the consumption of beetroot juice with lowering blood pressure.
“The researchers suggest the benefits of beetroot lay its nitrate content but it’s worth remembering other vegetables are rich in nitrates too, including green leafy vegetables like spinach. And nitrates aren’t the only good thing about fruit and vegetables so eat your beetroot and greens, but make sure you have a wide range of fruit and vegetables to make up your five-a-day.”
Professor Julie Lovegrove, of the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences at Reading, said: "This new data strengthens the evidence for a beneficial effect of nitrate-rich foods in lowering BP, even at relatively low levels of dosage.
"Processing beetroot during bread production did not significantly impact on the effects of reducing BP, and our studies suggested that nitrate in beetroot contributed to BP reduction, whereas betalains had minimal impact.
"Further, enriching bread with beetroot may provide a useful vehicle to increase beetroot consumption, particularly for those people at risk of cardiovascular disease."
A recent study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that patients suffering from high blood pressure who have different readings in each arm have a reduced chance of survival over 10 years.
Maureen Talbot, a Senior Cardiac Nurse for the British Heart Foundation, said: "This study supports national guidelines, which recommend that blood pressure readings are taken in both arms. It is normal to have a small difference in your blood pressure readings between arms.
"However, a big difference between your readings may carry risks, so more tests could be needed tocheck your heart health. If you want to find out your blood pressure, visit your GP or practice nurse to have it measured."
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the eight key risk factors (alcohol use, tobacco use, high blood pressure, high body mass index, high choles terol, high blood glucose, low fruit and vegetable intake, and physical inactivity) account for 61% of all cardiovascular deaths and over three quarters of all coronary heart disease. "Changing your diet and lifestyle can help to achieve a significant drop in your blood pressure levels, whether or not you are taking tablets," says Linda Main, Dietician for HEART UK. Take a look at the simple lifestyle changes you can make today to help lower blood pressure and maintain a healthy heart.
Keep your weight down. If you are overweight losing just 5-10% of your starting weight will help.
Be more physically active. Aim for 30 minutes or more, most days of the week. This doesn't have to mean going to the gym, walking or gardening can count too.
Drink alcohol in moderation. No more than 3 to 4 daily units a day for men and no more than 2 to 3 units for women.
Follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. Based on research findings which show that a diet low in saturated fat and salt, but high in fruit and vegetables, wholegrain foods and low fat dairy foods, can significantly lower blood pressure within two weeks. It is rich in nutrients such as potassium, calcium, magnesium and fibre.
Reduce your salt intake to a maximum of 6 grams a day (a teaspoon). Around 75% of the salt we eat is already in the foods we buy.