Eat your way to a healthy blood pressure!
Even if your blood pressure is OK for now, please don’t ignore this advice. Your chances of developing hypertension increase with age so cultivating BP-friendly dietary habits may stop you getting it in the future and add years to your life. High blood pressure is common mainly because of our modern lifestyle which encourages the wrong type of diet for high blood pressure. The good news is that you can eat your way to better control.
Here are some food tips to help you create your own diet for high blood pressure control or prevention.
If you want to get into more detail than I give here, you can visit my website that has more information about types of high blood pressure diet, but here are the main nutrition facts you need to know.
A good diet for high blood pressure should have lots of fruit, vegetables and grains, a reasonable intake of nuts and little animal fats and alcohol.
Let’s take a closer look:
Salt: This is the number one culprit – or to be more specific its the sodium in salt. This is a key ingredient to avoid in any diet for high blood pressure. Whether it is table salt, rock salt or sea salt, all contain sodium. (Incidentally so does MSG, baking soda, sodium nitrate so you will need to start reading food labels to avoid these other sources.)
The first step is to stop adding salt to your food at the table – and cut down on its use in cooking. We get plenty of sodium in our diets without having to add more – processed foods are particularly high in sodium. Use herbs and spices imaginatively to add flavour to your dishes, and avoid dressings and condiments – ketchup, barbeque sauce, relishes and soy sauce are loaded with sodium.
It might help you persevere with salt reduction if you know that our taste buds are adaptable. If you gradually reduce the saltiness of your food over time you won’t notice much difference. Your taste buds will adjust and you’ll find your food tastes fine. Saltier foods on the other hand will taste quite poisonous and you’ll find it easier to maintain your diet for high blood pressure!
Salty foods to avoid: freezer foods, processed meats such as bacon, sausages and salami, canned food and smoked products. Many snacks are loaded with sodium – salted crisps and pretzels, bagels, dried and smoked meats and salted nuts, for example.
Fruit and vegetables: You need to have at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day – this is easily done and tasty too. You’ll get plenty of potassium this way, which is very good for your BP.
You’ll also need to get into the habit of eating as much wholemeal as you can – this means choosing the ‘brown’ version of everything – brown rice, brown bread, wholemeal pasta for example. Cous cous, chick peas, oatmeal and beans should also be on the menu. Nuts are great for you but don’t overdo it because they are quite high in calories and you do not want to start putting on weight.
Steer clear of animal fats and eat lean meats, especially poultry – opt for grilling or boiling. . Seafood is very good for you. Dairy products are an important part of our diets – stick to the low fat versions of milk and yoghurt. Cheese will have to be the occasional treat though – too much salt.
One of my favourite recipes on this site is Pasta salad with walnuts and feta cheese – I had to substitute the cheese with tuna fish though. Once you get used to BP friendly eating you will get inventive too – substitute healthier ingredients so that you don’t have to totally abandon your favourite not-so-healthy recipes.
If you are partial to alcohol, a glass or two of wine is allowed daily – in fact the antioxidants in red wine are good for the heart, but don’t overdo it.
Finally – a word on shopping. Many people forget that healthy eating can’t happen if you don’t do healthy shopping. Healthy shopping starts with the choice of where you shop. So next time you have a few free hours – go exploring and find shops that can help you choose wisely – shops with lots of healthy choice and useful information.
The other habit you need to acquire is looking more closely at what you’re buying – READ the label, don’t make assumptions about food – bread and biscuits, for example can be very high in sodium but they vary a lot so you’ll need to check the numbers on the label. Beware, these days some manufacturers produce ‘low sodium’ versions of normally salty foods – but the sodium load can often still make up a sizeable proportion of your recommended 2300mg daily intake.
Load up with plenty of healthy snacks, (fresh and dried fruit, nuts etc) and make sure you have enough ingredients for lots of BP friendly cooking during the week.
Remember although these tips are to help you with the best type of diet for high blood pressure, they will also help you maintain your overall heart health and weight control too. I have had a lot of fun re-discovering food over the last few years. I realise that today’s manufactured and convenience foods, full of salt and artificial savoury flavourings had worsened my eating experience. Now I have rediscovered the fun of food, I love discovering new recipes and ingredients and I use this website as one of my guides.
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