There is nothing quite like the taste of a cool bowl of gazpacho to make you feel like you are sitting on the terrace of a sunny Spanish villa, enjoying a warm summer breeze. The flavors of vegetables picked ripe off the vine combine in a bowl to set your taste buds tingling. And now, with recent research that points to the benefits that gazpacho has in lowering blood pressure, you have even more of an excuse to create a bowl of this tasty soup.
Researchers at the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Barcelona, Spain, have found that the regular consumption of gazpacho can contribute to a reduction in high blood pressure. Hypertension is widespread in the western world, with approximately 25 percent of the population being affected. Hypertension contributes to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke.
The study, published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases, was performed on 3,995 people enrolled in the PREDIMED study, which analyzed the effect that the Mediterranean Diet had on those at high risk of cardiovascular disease. According to Alexander Medina-Remón, lead author of the study, “Previous clinical and epidemiological studies associate the consumption of gazpacho’s main ingredients (tomato, cucumber, garlic, olive oil, etc.) with an arterial pressure reduction.” He goes on to say, “This new scientific study states for the first time that a regular consumption of gazpacho is as beneficial as the consumption of its ingredients individually; so gazpacho can reduce hypertension.”
Gazpacho’s Salt Content Shows No Adverse Effect
Sodium consumption has long been believed to be one of the major contributing factors to high blood pressure, however, it does not seem to have the same effect when used in gazpacho. Coordinator of the study, Rosa M. Lamuela, professor in charge of the Research Group on Natural Antioxidants, says that the finding that gazpacho lowers hypertension was “an unexpected one, as it contains salt, one of the restricted ingredients to maintain arterial pressure levels. Despite this, the results of the study describe that arterial pressure of gazpacho consumers is lower than the one of non-consumers. The reason may be that bioactive elements of gazpacho counteract the effect of salt ingestion.”
The vegetables included in gazpacho are high in vitamin C, carotenes and polyphenols, all of which are important antioxidants, which in combination with the vegetables’ other bioactive elements and olive oil, are thought to balance the effect of the salt, making it heart-healthy. Medina-Remón believes that the regular consumption of gazpacho can reduce certain people’s risk of high blood pressure by as much as 27 percent.
The researchers intend to further study the mechanism of action involved in the consumption of polyphenol-rich foods and how they reduce arterial pressure. They theorize that the mechanism involves an increase in nitric oxide, which works as a vasodilator on the cardiovascular system.
How to Enjoy the Benefits of Gazpacho for Yourself!
This cool soup is easy to make if you have a food processor handy:
- 8 plum tomatoes
- 1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded
- 1 red onion
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped (or more, if you are fond of garlic)
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro or parsley
Roughly chop the tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, red onion and garlic. Put each vegetable one at a time into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until they are coarsely chopped. Then add the vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and blend. You can also put all the vegetables into a large bowl and use an immersion blender to process the vegetables into a smooth, but still slightly lumpy texture. Stir in the cilantro, chill for at least 2 hours and serve. The flavors of gazpacho are enhanced as it sits in the refrigerator, so it should ideally be made the day before you intend to serve it.
Gazpacho is a treat, whether made just for yourself or for family and friends. And knowing that it has the power to lower your blood pressure makes it an extra special food to add to your weekly menu!