A new study published in Scientific Reports shows that consuming a diet high in flavanols is associated with significant reductions in blood pressure.  Flavanols are a type of flavonoid, which are phytonutrients ( plant chemicals) that are powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits.  Flavonoids are in the class of phytonutrients called polyphenols, and they are associated with skin protection, brain function, blood sugar and blood pressure regulation, as well as their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Flavanols are one of six types of flavonoids, with the other five being anthocyanidins, flavones, flavonols, flavanones, and isoflavones.  Flavanols help manage symptoms of cardiovascular disease like high blood pressure.  The foods highest in flavanols include teas, cocoa-based products, apples, berries, red grapes, and red wine.

The health benefits of flavonoids have been understood for many years, and this latest study published in Scientific Reports has been able to provide objective proof by measuring nutritional flavanol biomarkers in the blood resulting from dietary intake, instead of relying only on participants in the study reporting what they ate.  They found that the difference in blood pressure between those with the lowest intake of flavanols and the highest intake was comparable to the changes in blood pressure observed in people following either a Mediterranean or DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.  The people with the highest flavanol intake had the lowest blood pressures, and the difference was the biggest in people who had hypertension, suggesting that we can all benefit from increasing our intake of flavanols.

This study provides yet another dot to connect between a plant-based diet and better health.  Plants are excellent sources of antioxidants, including flavanols.  Other foods that are high in flavanols include onions, kale, peaches, tomatoes, lettuce, scallions, and broccoli.  How great is it that you can have a meal that includes a delicious mix of sauteed vegetables with which you sip a glass of red wine, topped off by dark chocolate dipped berries, all of which will help to lower your blood pressure at the same time?

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