Can eating more whole-grain foods help lower blood pressure?

Answer From Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

It might. Eating more whole-grain foods on a regular basis might help reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure (hypertension).

Whole grains are grains that include the entire grain kernel — they haven't had their bran and germ removed by refining. Whole-grain foods are a rich source of healthy nutrients, including fiber, potassium, magnesium, folate, iron and selenium.

Eating more whole-grain foods offers many health benefits, which may include:

  • Helping manage weight, since whole-grain foods can make you feel full longer
  • Increasing potassium level, which is linked to lower blood pressure
  • Decreasing the risk of insulin resistance
  • Reducing damage to blood vessels

These heart-healthy benefits can work together to help reduce the risk of high blood pressure. If you already have high blood pressure, eating more whole-grain foods might help lower your blood pressure.

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and the Mediterranean diet both recommend including whole grains as part of a healthy diet.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults should eat about 3 ounces of whole grains a day, or the equivalent of three slices of whole-wheat bread.

One ounce of grains approximately equals:

  • 1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta
  • 1 medium slice of bread, tortilla, or flatbread
  • 1 cup of flaked whole-grain cereal

The guidelines also recommend that at least half of all grains you eat are 100% whole grain.

Examples of whole-grain foods include:

  • Barley (not pearled)
  • Dark rye bread
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Popcorn
  • Quinoa
  • Whole-grain cereals and crackers
  • Whole-grain cornmeal
  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Wild rice
June 22, 2022