Healthy Eating Tips

One More Reason To Eat a Variety of Protein-Rich Foods? It’ll Lower Your Risk of High Blood Pressure, Says the American Heart Association

Photo: Getty Images/Vaaseenaa
We've all found ourselves in the habit of eating the same three things over and over (...and over) again. When life gets busy, falling back on simple dishes that satisfy your tastebuds is the natural thing to do. But if you're cooking up the same couple proteins on the regular, a new study published in the the journal Hypertension suggests that it may be time to introduce a few new varieties into your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

The study pulled existing data from over 12,000 participants who took part in a minimum of two rounds of the China Health and Nutrition Survey. Researchers sought to explore the relationship between hypertension—or high blood pressure—and the variety and quantity of proteins from eight major dietary sources consumed by participants. (Study participants were an average age of 41 years old.)

Researchers measured protein intake by looking at three consecutive days of eating, scoring each round based on the number of protein varieties consumed (including legumes, fish, eggs, whole grains, refined grains, processed and unprocessed red meat, and poultry).

The results? "Among 'just the right amount' consumers of protein, those eating the greatest variety of protein had a the lowest blood pressure," explains John Higgins, MD, a sports cardiologist with McGovern Medical School at the UT Health Science Center at Houston. Notably, those who ate the least and the most amount of protein were at the greatest risk for developing high blood pressure, while those who ate the greatest variety of protein were 66 percent less likely to end up to develop hypertension between the rounds of the survey.

"The heart health message is that consuming a balanced diet with proteins from various different sources, rather than focusing on a single source of dietary protein, may help to prevent the development of high blood pressure." — Xianhui Qin, MD, study author

Although the survey results sound complicated—and, hey, they were—the takeaway is simple: "The heart health message is that consuming a balanced diet with proteins from various different sources, rather than focusing on a single source of dietary protein, may help to prevent the development of high blood pressure," Xianhui Qin, MD, the study author, said in a press release. In other words: Mix it up! Spin the protein wheel of fortune and try something new.

If you're not quite sure where to start with upping your protein game, Dr. Higgins recommends looking at your consumption on a daily basis. "The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than about 5.5 ounces of protein daily, about one to two servings, from healthy sources such as plants, seafood, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and some lean meats and poultry," he says. "The best proteins are lean proteins including beans, soy or tofu, fish, skinless chicken, very lean meat, and low-fat dairy products. Avoid proteins that say 'hydrogenated' on label or contain high levels of trans fats or saturated fats."

Of course, there's always room in your eating plan for less nutritional proteins, too—just try to incorporate these lean sources when you can, and ask your doctor if you have questions about what dietary habits are right for your particular health status and family history.

One delicious way to eat more varied proteins? This delicious quiche recipe:

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