Foods made from soy, such as tofu, have previously been associated with improved cholesterol levels and a decreased risk of heart disease and the results are even more remarkable when soy products are eaten in the place of meat. Now there are even more reasons to make the swap for vegetarian sources of protein, in addition to replacing some carbohydrates in your diet with soy foods and low fat dairy products, according to a study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
In the study, researchers divided more than 350 people with higher than normal blood pressure or hypertension into 3 groups. Each group took a supplement of either soy protein, low fat dairy or refined carbohydrates each day for two months without knowing which group they were in. At the end of the two month period, the researchers found that the participants in the soy or dairy groups had their systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading which is a measure of the pressure when the heart contracts) drop by two points on average. The carbohydrate group saw no such change.
Even though the findings were merely modest, the researchers believe that on a larger scale, such as the population level, these results could make a substantial impact. The researchers advise that everyone, especially those with high blood pressure, try adding more soy beans and low fat dairy products to their diets and cut back just a little on carbohydrates without being too drastic. Just note that fruits and vegetables don't need to be limited in this case, and the more you can eat each day, the better.