Fitability

Deb Bailey AFPA, MAT, CanFitPro, YMCA

Foods to Help Lower Your Blood Pressure

After your blood pressure check, the first thing your doctor might ask you is, "how much salt do you eat?" Great question, as salt is the easiest culprit in our diets. The problem is that most of us haven't got a clue what the answer is to that question.
The obvious first thing to cut out is fast food and restaurant dining. Salt is the go-to seasoning for restaurant cooks and chefs, since it's cheap and plentiful.  But what else can you do?

First, take a look at what you're cooking with at home. If you use canned beans, for instance, rinse them well 2-3 times to flush away some of the hidden sodium. You won't get it all, but this does helps. When your recipe calls for tomato sauce, reach instead for canned tomato paste - and put the kettle on to boil. If you mix tomato paste with an equal amount of hot water, you will get a richer tomato flavour without the high sodium of tomato sauce. Some brands, such as Hunt's, now offer a No Salt Added version that's even better for you. Add some fresh chopped herbs, or dried herbs, to add depth of flavour. Be generous with the herbs to get an out-of-the-ordinary taste.

Cut down on breads and crackers. They contain a lot of sodium but we tend to see these foods as essential. But most of us are eating much more than we need. Instead of crackers for the salsa, dip or peanut butter, try celery or carrot sticks, cucumber slices,  or slices of sweet peppers.

Right now in the summer we're eating a lot of asparagus and green beans. We do get bored with simple steamed vegetables, so mixing 1/4 cup each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon of grated garlic, and a tablespoon or two of chopped herbs, such as rosemary, basil and sage, makes a great marinade for many vegetables. Marinate for at least a 1/2 hour, then cook them on the barbeque or in a shallow frying pan until done.

Really look at the amount of sodium in everything you buy. We generally need no more than 1,500 mg daily of sodium. We do need some sodium  to transmit nerve impulses around the body and help your muscles contract (including the heart). Sodium also controls senses such as taste, smell and touch. But 1,500 mg isn't much - about 2/3 of a teaspoon of salt. Daily.

Finally, get in the habit of eating foods rich in calcium magnesium and potassium instead of eating high salt/high fat foods.  Some of these foods include:

1. White beans.  One cup of these gives you 13% of the calcium, 24% of the potassium and 30% of the magnesium you need daily. Use the No Salt versions or rinse thoroughly.

2. Fat-Free Plain Yogurt.   25% calcium, 10% potassium and some magnesium.

3. Pork Tenderloin.  15% potassium and 6% magnesium
Some other foods to look at include nuts and seeds; whole grains such as quinoa, teff and amaranth; fish such as salmon, bass, herring, sardines and mackerel; fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, radishes, and garlic; leafy greens such as spinach, Swiss chard, turnip and beet greens provide significant amounts of these very important elements.

We know that eating too much sugar can cause or contribute to a lot of health problems, such as diabetes, obesity, elevated blood pressure, certain types of cancers, stroke, gallbladder and liver disorders, respiratory problems, and more.

The first thing to do is to track how much sugar you are taking in each day. This involves a little detective work, since sugars often masquerade as other words in the ingredients list. These "disguised" sugars may be listed as "anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, crystal dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, liquid fructose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, pancake syrup, raw sugar, sugar, syrup and white sugar. Other types of sugar you might commonly see on ingredient lists are fructose, lactose and maltose. Fructose is sugar derived from fruit and vegetables; lactose is milk sugar; and maltose is sugar that comes from grain." (http://healthyeating.sfgate.com).

But wait - there are many more! The Food Label Movement cites these examples too: "Some of the less apparent sugar names include carbitol, concentrated fruit juice, corn sweetener, diglycerides, disaccharides, evaporated cane juice, erythritol, Florida crystals, fructooligosaccharides, galactose, glucitol, glucoamine, hexitol, inversol, isomalt, maltodextrin, malted barley, malts, mannitol, nectars, pentose, raisin syrup, ribose rice syrup, rice malt, rice syrup solids, sorbitol, sorghum, sucanat, sucanet, xylitol and zylose." (http://healthyeating.sfgate.com).

What is the goal for sugar consumption? Unfortunately, in Canada, we have murky and outdated guidelines for this. But the World Health Organization advises us to keep our sugar intake to between 5% and 10% of our daily calories. Read more here.

It isn't always possible to count up the grams of sugar(s) in the food you are eating, but keep in mind that the ingredients are listed by weight from more to less of that ingredient. So if you see several of these sugar types in the ingredients list, better look for a healthier choice.

Some tips for choosing lower sugar foods:

Read more: Eating Less Sugar for Better Health

The sharp, clean scent of lemons gives a hint of the wealth of positive benefits hidden inside. They contain vitamins C, B6, A, E, folate, thiamin, riboflavin, coppe,r calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, folate, and some protein.

 

Lemons also contain flavonoids, containing antioxidant and cancer fighting elements. They have a positive effect on high blood pressure, fever, diabetes and upset stomach, among many other benefits. They also can fight kidney stones by forming urinary citrate, thus preventing crystals forming in the kidneys.

 

However, turning to commercial lemonades is a step backwards, because of the chemicals, colouring, and sugar/sugar compounds added. Instead, mix a pitcher of water, fresh lemon juice to taste, and let one or two juiced lemon rinds sit in the bottom of the pitcher for even more flavour. If you want that hit of sweetness, use a bit of honey. Honey itself has many positive compounds, such as potassum, calcium, sodium, fibre and several vitamins and minerals.

 

 

Here is a link to a herb-lemon marinade that is excellent with chicken and pork,  from the wonderful chef Ina Garten.  So look for new and exciting ways to add lemons and their juice and zest to your marinades, water, salads and meats!

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