Can drinking fruit juice lower your blood pressure? The results of a new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition last October say yes. But not just any fruit juice; it has to be fruit juice rich in polyphenols — a class of phyto-nutrients found in many fruits, especially dark purple and blue fruits such as grapes, cherries, and berries.
The double-blind, placebo-controlled study studied the effect drinking fruit juice had on adults aged 50-70 who had either high to normal blood pressure or stage 1 or 2 hypertension. For 12 weeks, participants drank 500 ml (about two cups) a day of one of the following:
- a juice blend of grapes, cherries, chokecherries, and bilberries
- a similar beverage with added polyphenols from black currants
- a placebo beverage with a lower polyphenol count
Participants’ blood pressure was measured at the beginning of the experiment and after 6 and 12 weeks of juice consumption to see if it affected blood pressure.
The answer? Yes, as long as the fruit juice was high in polyphenols.
Among the two groups that drank juice with a high polyphenol content, systolic blood pressure decreased significantly. Many experts consider the systolic reading (that’s the top number, which measures the pressure in your arteries when the left ventricle of your heart contracts) the more important one, especially in folks over 50.
More encouragingly, the juice had a more pronounced effect on those who already had high blood pressure than on those who were pre-hypertensive. In other words, it works better the more you need it.
Because juice has no fiber and causes a more rapid increase in blood sugar than fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s important not to let juice substitute for fresh produce in your diet. But if you do drink juice in moderation, polyphenol-rich fruit juices are good choices. Fruits with the highest polyphenol content include:
- Black chokeberry
- Black elderberry
- Lowbush blueberry
- Black currant
- Highbush blueberry
- Sweet cherry
- Red raspberry
A glass of juice is refreshing all by itself, but you can also use juices in smoothies. Here’s one that uses black currant juice, fresh pineapple, and soy yogurt, though I’m sure it would work with regular yogurt as well. Including a protein like yogurt when you drink juice can help offset the effect it might have on blood sugar. Try adding a scoop of Juice Plus+ Complete Shake Mix for additional nutritional benefits.
Or you could make healthier popsicles out of juice than the sugar-filled variety in the summertime. Here’s an interesting-looking recipe for tart cherry juice-coconut milk popsicles I might try when the weather gets warm.
You can also cook with fruit juices. If you’re a fan of glazed carrots, this recipe uses grape juice instead of brown sugar and includes heart-healthy olive oil and walnuts as well.
What’s your favorite fruit juice? Do you ever cook with juice?
 Tjelle TE, et al. Polyphenol-rich juices reduce blood pressure measures in a randomised controlled trial in high normal and hypertensive volunteers. Br J Nutr. 2015 Oct 14;114(7):1054-63.
 Understanding blood pressure readings. American Heart Association. 2014 Aug 4. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/AboutHighBloodPressure/Understanding-Blood-Pressure-Readings_UCM_301764_Article.jsp#.VorQTjZrVcA
 Perez-Jimenez J, et al. Identification of the 100 richest dietary sources of polyphenols: an application o the Phenol-Explorer database. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010;64:S112-S120.