High blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension, affects more than a quarter of adults in the UK. The condition can lead to serious health complications if left untreated, increasing the risk of having heart attacks and strokes. If your blood pressure is too high, it’s vital to lower it in order to prevent complications from occurring. Following a healthy, balanced diet is one important way to lower blood pressure and ensure good health in general.
This includes cutting down on foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt.
Cutting down on salt is particularly important for people with high blood pressure, as too much salt consumption is a leading cause of hypertension.
In addition, adding certain foods to your diet can help to lower blood pressure.
According to some experts, the shiitake mushroom is one type of vegetable which can reduce blood pressure levels.
“Shiitake mushrooms are rich in a chemical called eritadenine, which seems to block the activity of an enzyme that constricts blood vessels,” writes dietitian Juliette Kellow.
This is important as when blood vessels constrict, the pressure of blood flowing through them is increased.
When blood vessels remain widened, blood pressure is more likely to remain at normal levels.
Dr Sarah Brewer notes the eritadenine found in shiitake mushrooms blocks angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) in a similar way to the ACE inhibitor class of antihypertensive drugs.
Some other edible mushrooms, such as oyster, enoki and porcini also contain eritadenine, but shiitake mushrooms contain the highest amount.
Preclinical studies also suggest shiitake extracts stimulate the removal of excess sodium via the kidneys to reduce fluid retention.
Dr Brewer adds that shiitake mushrooms provide all the “essential” amino acids, vitamins B1, B2, B12 and C, and also have the highest content of vitamin D of any plant foods.
The Japanese mushrooms also provide magnesium and calcium, which too have “direct blood pressure lowering actions”.
According to Dr Brewer, shiitake mushrooms are the second most popular edible mushroom worldwide, after the common white button mushroom, but have “a far superior” nutritional value.
“Shiitake mushrooms have been used medicinally for over 3,000 years to treat high blood pressure and raised cholesterol levels,” said Dr Brewer.
“In ancient Japan, shiitake was considered an ‘elixir of the life’ and they were eaten to increase energy and vigour, and to protect against heart disease and infections.”
You can buy shiitake mushrooms fresh, dried to add to soups and sauces, or as powder or capsules if you prefer to take them in supplement form.