Dairy, so long as it is low-fat, can help control blood pressure. Studies have found it before and they have just found it again. Researchers found that women who drink low-fat milk or eat low-fat yogurt on a regular basis have a lower risk of developing hypertension.
The study, published in the journal “Hypertension,” included about 29,000 women over the age of 45. Those who consumed the most low-fat dairy were less likely to get high blood pressure. A similar picture emerged when researchers examined how much calcium and vitamin D they got through food. But supplements of these same substances don’t have a strong effect on blood pressure, so there are other factors at work within low-fat dairy products.
It’s another example of where foods are preferable over supplements. A supplement is just that — something that “supplements” your diet. Food contains a complete profile of nutrients, many different types of natural chemicals that play roles in our health. This helps explain why low-fat dairy helps lower blood pressure and its main nutrients don’t when used as supplements.
That said, just to get nice and confusing, calcium is a critical factor here. The researchers do believe that the famous mineral plays a significant role in the low-fat dairy connection to high blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of the blood flow on the walls of the arteries, and helps indicate the health of the heart.
At the beginning of the study, the thousands of U.S. women filled out detailed questionnaires about their diets. Over the following decade, about 8,700 of them developed high blood pressure. The risk was 11% lower for those who regularly consumed low-fat dairy. Though 11% may not sound huge, when combined with the many other ways proven to lower blood pressure, it can make a considerable difference.
Consumers must watch out, though. Dairy products with a high fat content did not contribute to this benefit. Saturated fat works against your blood pressure, negating the effects of calcium. While it’s easy to pick out low-fat milk (skim instead of two percent, for instance), it’s trickier next door in the yogurt aisle. It takes some careful reading of labels to understand which are low in fat. One small cup of yogurt should not deliver a high percentage of your daily value of saturated fat.
Guidelines show that three servings of low-fat dairy a day is something to aim for.