If you’re paying closer attention to what you eat in an attempt to combat high blood pressure (and avoid costly prescription meds) there may be a new secret weapon in your dietary arsenal. Drinking low-calorie cranberry juice was found to slightly lower blood pressure in a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study presented at American Heart Association’s 2012 scientific sessions on hypertension.

New Research

When 56 healthy adults without high blood pressure (average age 51; average BMI of 28.4) drank two eight-ounce glasses of low-calorie cranberry juice or a placebo drink daily for two months, one at breakfast and one at dinner, systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure dipped an average 3 mm Hg in the cranberry-juice group compared to no change in the placebo group.

It is important to note that this study was funded by Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., and because it was small, its results need to be repeated in larger studies to be confirmed.

How It Works

Cranberries contain flavonoids, or antioxidants that have been found to reduce heart-disease risk in previous studies. The DASH arthritis and heart disease ad(Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, known to lower blood pressure, recommends up to five servings of fruit daily, says Rachel Johnson, PhD, RD, chair of AHA’s nutrition committee, adding that low-calorie cranberry juice can fit into this recommendation.

Take-Home

If you have high blood pressure, consider replacing less healthy drinks (including sugary sodas, sports drinks, and energy drinks) with low-calorie cranberry juice. Remember, fruit juices can be high in added sugars and calories.

The AHA recommends no more than 100 calories (six teaspoons, or 24 grams) of added sugars daily for most women, says Dr. Johnson, no more than 150 calories (nine teaspoons, or 36 grams) of added sugars daily for most men. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend two cups of fruit and two-and-one-half cups of vegetables daily for people with a 2,000-calorie intake. A juice serving (one-half cup) counts as one-half cup of fruit.

To ensure you’re getting enough fiber, aim to reach this goal mainly by eating whole fruits (fresh, frozen, canned, or dried) instead of just by drinking fruit juice.