New Study Connects Traditional Chinese Cuisines To Heart-Health

When you think about Chinese food you probably imagine crunchy egg rolls, spicy kung pao chicken, or Szechuan shrimp drenched in sauce. While these entrees are incredibly tasty, these staples of westernized Chinese food aren't thought of as healthy. In general, Chinese food is usually only associated with takeout in the West, however, a new study recently done on Chinese cuisine might help to alter that view. The American Heart Association recently found that eating a healthier version of Asian food might significantly lower blood pressure in just a few weeks.

"Chinese people who live in the U.S. and elsewhere often maintain a traditional Chinese diet, which is very different from a Western diet," said Dr. Yangfeng Wu, a professor at Peking University Clinical Research Institute in Beijing. "Healthy Western diets such as [Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension] DASH, and Mediterranean have been developed and proven to help lower blood pressure. However, until now, there has not been a proven heart-healthy diet developed to fit into traditional Chinese cuisine."

What the healthier version of Chinese food contained

In the study by the American Heart Association, 265 Chinese adults that already had high blood pressure, were chosen at random to either eat normal Chinese food or a healthier modified version. For 28 days each participant ate a version of their traditional Cantonese, Szechuan, Shandong, or Huaiyang cuisine. In fact, both groups saw declines in their blood pressure, but those that ate the healthier style saw a much more significant decline.

The heart-healthy version of the Chinese food implemented the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet. According to the Mayo Clinic, this meal plan includes dishes that are high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium. It also limits items that contain large amounts of sodium and saturated fats.

"Health professionals should recommend a heart-healthy diet with low sodium and high potassium, fiber, vegetables, and fruits as the first-line treatment to their patients with high blood pressure," Wu told the American Heart Association. "Because traditional Chinese dietary culture and cooking methods are often used wherever Chinese people live, I believe a heart-healthy Chinese diet and the principles that we used for developing the diet would be helpful for Chinese Americans as well."