Addressing Another Lifestyle Disease – High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure has become the “second greatest public health threat” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The scary thing about it is that when you have hypertension, it also places you at the risk of other diseases including heart problems and stroke. Even when you are on medication, it is still not enough of an assurance that you can have your blood pressure under control. The solution? Change your lifestyle and follow a cleaner and healthier way of eating with a plant-based diet.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association included an analysis of seven clinical trials and 32 observational studies among different types of vegetarians. The results of the study showed that those who completely eliminated meat from their diet were able to lower their blood pressure levels. The reduction is almost as significant as losing more than eleven pounds of body weight. It was found that following a vegetarian diet is 50 percent more effective in reducing blood pressure compared to prescribed medications for this condition.
High blood pressure has always been associated with high consumption of saturated fats and sodium. Scientists attribute the reduction of blood pressure to the lower saturated fat and sodium content of plant-based diets. The result of the research also takes into accord the DASH or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The USDA recommends this type of diet to Americans to help stop the prevalence of chronic diseases including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.
Vegetables to the Rescue for Great Health
Your diet should include vegetables such as tomatoes, broccoli, greens, sweet potatoes, and cruciferous vegetables. They can almost be consumed with unrestricted servings. Veggies contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals without containing too many calories. The fiber content in vegetables will also make you feel fuller and will satiate your hunger. Fiber is also effective in reducing and eliminating the amount of LDL or “bad” cholesterol in your digestive tract and prevents it from circulating in your body. Since vegetables have low levels of sodium and saturated fats, basing your meals on it can help you reduce your blood pressure on a long term basis.
When serving vegetables, it is best to treat them as main dishes instead of just having them on the sides. You can combine vegetables with grains or wheat products which can already create an entire meal. Choose fresh, organic vegetables as much as possible. However, if you have little option for fresh vegetables, you can also go for frozen vegetables. Avoid canned vegetables as these contain high amounts of sodium. Even those labeled with “no-sodium” or “low-sodium” are still added with chemicals for preservation purposes.
Whole grains such as barley, buckwheat, rice and pasta from whole grain can be great additions to your meal. Choose whole grains which have higher fiber content than refined grains. Whole grains are labeled as such when you buy them in groceries. When cooking grains, it is best to have the basic ingredients and avoid adding cream, butter and other sauces that contain saturated and trans fat. Grains have naturally low-fat content and adding these dairy products will be detrimental to your health. For flavor, use natural sweeteners or natural herbs and spices instead.
Fruits, just like vegetables, are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fibers that can help you fight off hypertension. Fruits are also the better option to eat for snacks instead of bingeing on processed and junk foods. In general, fruits are low in fat except for coconuts and avocado. Aside from eating it for snacks and dessert, you can also add fruits to your vegetable meals, such as salad dishes. Citrus fruits are also great for beverages and serving them fresh is better than getting it from the can. They are already naturally sweet so no sugar or artificial sweetener should be added. For sour fruit juices, use natural sweeteners such as honey instead of using Splenda or refined sugar.
Nuts in Moderation Are Fine for Most
Nuts are your healthy source of fats as they contain monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Get your dose of magnesium, protein, and potassium by eating almonds, peas and lentils. Aside from these nutrients, nuts, seeds and legumes are also naturally high in fiber and phytochemical content, which can help you fight off hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and certain types of cancer. In a plant-based diet, where protein deficiency is a concern, you can get your protein from soybean-based products like tempeh and tofu. These food options contain the essential amino acids for protein conversion, making them the excellent substitute for meat products. However, since nuts and seeds are also high in calorie content, it would be best to eat them in moderation. You can use them as additional ingredients or as toppings to your salads, cereals, and rice meals.
Fats are still essential in keeping a balanced diet. However, you should only limit it to two servings a day. Aside from the serving limitation, you should also restrict it to healthy sources such as olive oil, nuts, and fruits.
Low Sodium Eating Also Helpful to Reduce Blood Pressure
Avoid processed foods and meat which contains saturated and trans fat that are known to be culprits of hypertension and other chronic diseases. Apart from fats, processed foods also contain insane amounts of sodium. Even those that are labeled as low sodium and low fat still have high sodium content if you take into account that the recommended sodium intake to avoid and lower blood pressure is only at 1500 mg a day. To give you an idea, one teaspoon of table salt contains 2325 mg of sodium, and is almost twice the recommended intake.
Moving towards a low sodium, plant-based lifestyle might seem challenging at first. You can make changes gradually, instead of switching altogether to a new kind of eating habit. It will also give your body time to adjust to your new diet. As you slowly progress into it, acquaint yourself with a wider variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains.
Plant-Based Approaches Are Worth Exploring for Blood Pressure Support
You can also try experimenting new and exciting recipes so you are always enthusiastic with what you eat. Creating a lifestyle change in your new way of eating should not make you feel deprived, even if you are used to the standard Western way of eating. Making mindful attempts towards this healthier and cleaner eating will also shift your mindset from deprivation to empowerment, one with the knowledge that you can be healthier with the right choices.
Unfortunately, many patients with high blood pressure do not tolerate or response to medication used to treat high blood pressure. Thankfully, there are some food-based supplements that can help. Along with any changes in your diet, here are a few to discuss with your doctor:
- Magnesium (chelated or citrate are suggested)
- Hawthorne berry extracts
- Hibiscus Tea
- CoEnzyme Q
- Celery Seed
- Aged Garlic
If you have reduced your blood pressure through changes in your diet, we hope you will share your story in the comment box below.