What has brought me down this road of wanting to talk about the Best Diet for High Blood Pressure?
It is due to the fact that the doctor has recently given me the “your numbers are not good” speech.
What number you ask?
You guessed it. Blood Pressure.
Most persons……. I dare say……. every person, hopes to live a healthy life until the day he/she dies. Unfortunately, for many of us that hope is derailed with one bad diagnosis or another. One extremely common diagnosis that many persons have to deal with is high blood pressure. The good news though is that this disease can be managed by dietary and lifestyle changes.
What is High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension as it is also called occurs when the pressure or force of the blood pushing against the walls of the blood vessels is consistently too high. It is considered as the silent killer because while there are no initial symptoms it is quietly causing progressive changes in the blood vessels until you are are hit with the first symptom which is usually a stroke or a heart attack.
It is therefore crucial that we check our blood pressure so we know where we stand and can take the appropriate corrective measures.
Ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading at least every two years starting at age 18. If you are age 40 or older, or you are 18 to 39 with a high risk of high blood pressure, ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading every year.
High Blood Pressure/ Hypertension is defined as a systolic blood pressure reading (top number) consistently over 130 and a diastolic blood pressure reading (bottom number) over 80.
The optimal blood pressure according to the American Heart Association is a systolic reading of less than 120 and a diastolic reading of less than 80. This is what we should aim for.
So your numbers are high. What now?
So you have been told the disappointing and discouraging news that your blood pressure is high. This turn of affairs might get you down as you think of all the complications of hypertension such heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, kidney disease, aneurysms, atherosclerosis and blindness. But don’t despair. The good news is that if you control your high blood pressure, you will reduce the chances of developing those awful complications later in life.
Of course, the doctor knows the importance of keeping those numbers within the normal range and more than likely he is going to suggest starting you are on medication. But you know what? You might not have to go on those medications immediately. Ask him if you can try to reduce the blood pressure by simple dietary and lifestyle change. If the pressure is not in a critical range, he might give you a week or so to try to reduce it without medication.
Now is your chance. Give it your best shot for this week and give the doctor a pleasant surprise when you return.
What should you eat?
Numerous studies have been done which show that persons eating a plant-based diet have lower blood pressure than those who include meat, eggs and dairy in their diet.
In the Adventist 2 Study, which was conducted by the Loma Linda University, it was found that those who ate meat only once per week had 23% lower rates of high blood pressure. Those who cut out all meat except fish had 38% lower rates. Those eating no meat at all (vegetarians), had less than half the rate, and the rate was still lower in the vegan group.
Those are some really significant findings.
Want to make the change?
So what then is really the best diet for high blood pressure?
Before we go any further let me hurry and say this. I know the word “diet” can be very off-putting. Don’t consider that you will have to go on a “diet”. What you will actually be doing is applying the following principles when preparing your meals.
This is the general principle:
Consume a low fat, whole foods, plant-based diet including; fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes and exclude all animal products (meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs) and alcohol.
That’s it. It is do-able, isn’t it?
Okay. It might be a bit challenging but when you think of what is at stake you should really give it a try. When you see the tremendous results you will certainly be motivated to continue.
If it is really, really too hard for you, go ahead and have some dairy and eggs sparingly. Remember though that the strict plant based diet give the most effective results.
Let’s break it down some more
An easy way to ensure that you are eating a healthy, balanced meal is to apply the MyPlate principle.
Imagine that your plate is split into two halves.
Fill one half of the plate with fruits and vegetables (a little bit more vegetables than fruits). These will be non-starchy vegetables and there are many to choose from such as spinach, kale, callaloo, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, okra, bell pepper, pak choi, cucumber, lettuce, tomato, string beans, carrot, beetroot, onions, eggplant.
Divide the other half of the plate into two quarters.
Fill one quarter with grains or starchy vegetables.
Grains include foods such as brown rice, bulgar, quinoa, oats, whole wheat pasta and whole grain breads such as 100% whole wheat bread.
Examples of starchy vegetables are potatoes, corn, cassava, sweet potato, yam, breadfruit, green banana, ripe plantain, pumpkin, squash.
Fill the other quarter with your non-meat protein.
Examples are tofu, peas and beans such as lentils, split peas, black beans, chick peas, red kidney beans.
Don’t forget to drink lots of water………around 8 cups per day.
And there you have it. A healthy, balanced, high blood pressure reducing meal.
Eating lots of fresh raw fruits and vegetables decrease the need for added salt and increase potassium stores which help lower blood pressure.
Substitute the unhealthy saturated fat and trans fat with healthy fat such as that obtained from olive oil and seeds such as flax and chia seeds which provide healthy omega-3-fatty acids.
Look for unsalted snacks if you are need them. A good option is to snack on fruits and nuts such as almonds, walnuts, pecans. Roasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds also make good snacks.
Carefully read the labels when you are shopping and purchase foods that are low in sodium.
Do not eat these
I know you probably don’t want to hear this but there are some foods you will just have to refrain from eating if you want to overcome this high pressure problem naturally.
These foods are usually high in sodium/salt, saturated fat, trans fats or sugar.
They will derail your efforts so it would be good if you wean yourself off them.
- Saturated fats
- Trans fat
- Canned soups
- Tomato sauces
- Deli meat
- Packaged/ processed foods.
- Fatty foods
The recommended daily allowance of salt especially for persons with high blood pressure is 1500 mg.
Most of the foods listed above are loaded with salt.
So you are allowed 1500 mg per day but did you know that 1 cup of canned chili and beans has 4100 mg of salt.
Or you decide to snack on a 7 ounce pack of Pringles potato chip. Well that is 3000 mg of salt.
What about a KFC 3 piece meal. That’s 5600 mg of salt.
Do you see how quickly the salt can add up?
Don’t despair. As was said earlier, eating an abundance of fresh and unrefined foods will automatically cut the excess sodium and fat in your diet.
Don’t forget exercise
We have been talking a lot about diet but exercise is a crucial part of the lifestyle change that helps to keep your blood pressure within normal limits. Ensure that you are getting adequate amount of exercise. I am not sending you to the gym to pump tons of iron or sending you on a marathon. Just walking for approximately half an hour five times per week is actually quite sufficient.
The week is over and it is time to go back to the doctor. If you have been able to stick to this lifestyle change, the probability is very high that your doctor is going to be pleasantly surprised. Others have been successful and so can you.
Whether you are newly diagnosed or have been on high blood pressure medication for years, the tested and proven lifestyle changes, when applied will help you to keep your blood pressure under control without having to resort to high doses of pharmaceutical medication.
When you consider the stakes (uncontrolled high blood pressure and the complications and diseases that can result), lifestyle change is not a bad option, is it?
Go ahead and make the change.
It worked for me. It can work for you too.
Share your success, suggestions or questions in the comments section below.