Aside from being a tasty little addition to banana bread and oatmeal cookies, raisins could also have benefits for blood pressure, according to a small new study.
Researchers from the Louisville Metabolic and Atherosclerosis Research Center found that snacking on raisins three times a day could mildly lower blood pressure, compared to other kinds of snacks -- a promising finding for people who may not have full-blown hypertension, but are on the cusp of high blood pressure.
"Our study suggests if you have a choice between eating raisins or other snacks like crackers and chocolate chip cookies, you may be better off snacking on raisins at least with respect to blood pressure," Dr. Harold Bays, M.D., medical director and president of Louisville Metabolic and Atherosclerosis Research Center, said in a statement. His research was presented at the American College of Cardiology's 61st Annual Scientific Session.
The study included 46 men and women with prehypertension. Prehypertension is defined as having a systolic blood pressure level between 120 and 139 millimeters of mercury, or a diastolic blood pressure level between 80 and 89 millimeters of mercury. A normal blood pressure level is defined as having a systolic blood pressure level of 120 or less, and a diastolic blood pressure level of 80 or less; hypertension is defined as having a systolic blood pressure level of 140 to 159 or a diastolic blood pressure level of 90 to 99.
The researchers had the study participants either eat raisins or some sort of prepackaged commercial snack, like crackers or cookies (that didn't contain any raisins, vegetables or fruits) that had the same amount of calories. All the study participants ate the snacks three times a day, for 12 weeks.
The researchers found that the raisin-eaters had reduced systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading, meaning "as the heart beats," according to the National Institutes of Health) and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in the reading, meaning the relaxation of the heart between heartbeats). However, the pre-packaged snack-eaters didn't see any significant drops in their blood pressure.
Researchers said they are not yet sure how raisins could have an effect in lowering blood pressure -- and that bigger studies are need to confirm the link -- but raisins' nutrition values include being high in potassium (which could lower blood pressure) and containing antioxidants, fiber, polyphenols and phenolic acid.
And raisins aren't the only food linked with blood pressure benefits. Click through the slideshow for seven other foods that could help your BP, naturally: