Eating cheese can help lower your blood pressure as it is an excellent source of calcium. And, as some hard cheeses ripen, the breakdown of milk proteins also produces peptides that lower blood pressure in a similar way to ACE inhibitor drugs. This effect is due to the presence of beneficial, probiotic strains of Lactobacillus helveticus bacteria, and is most pronounced in Grana Padano – a type of Italian cows’ milk cheese – after it has aged for nine to twelve months.
Cheese lowers blood pressure
Grana Padano cheese gets its name from its grainy texture and the Pianura Padana valley in which it has been produced for almost a thousand years. Its flavour and texture are similar to those of Parmesan cheese, but different strains of bacteria are present in the two cheeses so that Grana Padano is especially beneficial for people whose blood pressure is raised.
An Italian study involving 45 people with hypertension showed that eating 30g Grana Padano per day, for two months, lowered blood pressure by 12/8 mmHg, from an average of 146/91mmHg to 134/83mmHg. A control group that did not eat the cheese showed no significant changes during the two month trial.
What about the salt?
Although Grana Padano contains some salt, it is lower than in many cheeses, and a 30g medicinal serving provides around 150mg sodium compared with 227mg for a similar chunk of parmesan, for example. And, as the study showed, the presence of this amount of salt does not blunt its ACE-inhibiting, blood pressure lowering effects. A 30g serving size also provides 307g calcium plus useful amounts of magnesium and potassium which will contribute to the cheese’s antihypertensive action.
If your blood pressure is raised it seems a good idea to substitute Grana Padano for other hard cheeses such as parmesan or even Cheddar. Eating the cheese will also boost the action of any blood pressure lowering medication you are taking unless you are already taking an ACE inhibitor or an angiotensin II receptor blocker, in which case you may not notice an additional effect as their modes of action are similar.
Grana Padano is delicious eaten on its own with cold meats and olives. You can also grate Grana Padano cheese over vegetable, pizza or pasta dishes, to add to the health benefits of tomato lycopene and garlic.
If your blood pressure is raised, self-monitoring is key to maintaining good control.
Click here for advice on choosing a blood pressure monitor to use at home.
Image credit: fabio_omero / flickr