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Are soyfoods a good fit for people with high blood pressure? Absolutely.
Low sodium soy products such as unsalted edamame, roasted (unsalted) soy nuts, soy milk, tempeh and tofu can make important contributions to heart-healthy diets.
Multiple components of soybeans may have blood-pressure lowering effects. For example, digestion of soy protein may produce small chains of amino acids, the building blocks of protein, that lower blood pressure. And compounds in soybeans called isoflavones, appear to boost the activity of enzymes that increase the production of nitric oxide, a molecule which widens blood vessels and reduces blood pressure.1
Despite all the encouraging evidence, more research is needed to definitively conclude that soy lowers blood pressure. Nevertheless, given the nutritional attributes of soyfoods, it seems prudent for all those concerned about blood pressure to incorporate low-sodium soyfoods into their diet.
The American Heart Association says the recommended amount of sodium per day for individuals with hypertension is 1,500 mg.2 Try to limit sodium content to 400 mg for a meal and 100 mg for a snack. Some processed soyfoods can have upward of 800 mg of sodium, which is over half of what is recommended for someone with hypertension.
To keep sodium consumption in check, be a label reader; the sodium content is always listed. Consider soyfoods as an option that might be of help in keeping blood pressure down.
Sandra Allonen, RD, MEd, LDN is an outpatient dietitian at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
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