Those wrinkly sweet maroon pockets often relegated to brown-bag school lunches may deserve another look in the snack aisle, especially if you are among the one in three adults in the U.S. who suffers from the condition known as prehypertension (when blood pressure is elevated beyond what is considered healthy but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as full-on hypertension, or high blood pressure).
Routinely gulping down a handful of the juicy gems known as raisins three times throughout the day may be an exceedingly simple blood-pressure-reducing tactic to try for this group of people on the cusp of developing high blood pressure, according to research presented at this year’s American College of Cardiology meeting.
When researchers gave 46 men and women with prehypertension either raisins or pre-packaged snacks of equal calories without raisins three times daily for three months, then compared the effects of the foods on blood pressure, they found that the raisin group experienced reductions in both systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure while the no-raisin group showed no significant drops in blood pressure.
“Raisins are packed with potassium, which is known to lower blood pressure,” said Harold Bays, MD, lead study investigator and medical director and president of the Louisville Metabolic and Atherosclerosis Research Center, in a press release.
“They are also a good source of antioxidant dietary fiber that may favorably alter the biochemistry of blood vessels, causing them to be less stiff, which in turn, may reduce blood pressure,” added Bays.
One handful of raisins, which contains about 60, has 212 milligrams of potassium and 1 gram of fiber. In the well-known Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, designed to prevent high blood pressure, both of these nutrients are recommended.
Though eating raisins has previously been cited as a method to lower blood pressure, researchers point out that there was little by the way of scientific research to support the claim and that this is the first controlled study to back the food’s blood-pressure-reducing benefits through research, especially compared to other snack foods including crackers and cookies.
Researchers were not able to specifically identify how exactly raisins reduce blood pressure, but pointed out that the chewy nuggets are chock-full of health-promoting potassium, as well as rich in fiber and antioxidants.
Larger studies are needed to confirm this finding and it’s also worth noting that this study was performed through funding by the California Raisin Marketing Board.