Live Heart Healthy. Live Well & Live Long

High Blood Pressure: Raisins vs. Salty Crackers

by | Jul 24, 2012

Not eating saltines or other salty crackers for only a few days can make a major impact in lowering blood pressure. When you want to snack, eating raisins instead of saltines is very good idea, especially since raisins (along with bananas, carrots and plain low fat yogurt) are high in potassium.

Most of us know that potassium is good for us. Ironically, however, sometimes focusing on the positive nature of certain foods can actually cause more vital information to be overlooked.

At the American College of Cardiology annual conference on March 25th, 2012, scientists from the University of Louisville reported the results of a study showing that consuming raisins may help lower borderline high blood pressure. In this study, 46 adults with pre- hypertension, defined as blood pressure above 120 mmHg but less than 140 mm Hg, were randomly assigned to consume raisins or cookies and crackers. Within just 12 weeks, the test subjects in the raisins group had lowered their blood pressure by as much as 7%. The principal scientists involved concluded that their findings supported previous beliefs that raisins have antihypertensive properties.

Many other commentators then jumped in to speculate that the antioxidants, fiber and potassium in raisins explain the drop in blood pressure. The more obvious reason for the decrease in blood pressure—lowering salt intake (which is not a speculation anymore) by not eating salty snacks—has been repeatedly overlooked by many of these commentators.

So the most important lesson from this study about avoiding salty snacks has been lost. I really have no issue with saying that raisins make a good snack. But when the benefit of any natural foods is assigned to a particular chemical in them, I definitely have a problem. Time and again, the trail of research on these kinds of claims goes nowhere. For example, we really don’t know what chemical in an apple is good for you. But that does not stop commercial manufacturers from coming up with a drink and pills claiming benefits because of added chemicals supposedly derived from apples. Unfortunately, these manufacturers’ claims are protected as long as there’s a disclaimer on the side of the bottle. Since this small print label hardly catches anyone’s attention, the manufacturers of processed foods are able to get away with these kinds of claims.

If you really want to get the health benefits of raisins and other natural foods, you have to consume the actual natural foods instead of processed salty alternatives. All too often people are content with pills and substitutes claiming to have the active ingredients of these natural foods. Don’t be fooled. Get rid of all these processed snacks from your kitchen, dining table, your car and your place of work. Have only natural foods without any added salt around you. That’s the lesson to be  learned from the study about raisins.

Yes, raisins do make a good snack. But don’t forget, the salt in the cookies and crackers is deadly.


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