|Excerpt from FC&A's Eat and Heal.|
Nutritional Blockbusters That Fight High Blood Pressure
Minerals. Like the Three Musketeers, potassium, calcium, and magnesium join forces to duel with high blood pressure. The DASH diet includes two to three times more of these minerals than the average American diet.
Potassium. This vital mineral leads the charge against high blood pressure. It neutralizes sodium, often the enemy when it comes to controlling your blood pressure, by flushing it out in your urine. Potassium also relaxes your blood vessels, which improves blood flow. Eat more peas, beans, apricots, peaches, bananas, prunes, oranges, spinach, stewed tomatoes, sweet potatoes, avocados, and figs if you want more potassium in your diet.
Magnesium. This mineral also helps lower blood pressure by relaxing your blood vessels. And it balances the amount of sodium and potassium in your blood cells — less sodium, more potassium. Magnesium-rich foods include whole-wheat breads and cereals, broccoli, chard, spinach, okra, oysters, scallops, sea bass, mackerel, beans, nuts, and seeds.
Calcium. People who get very little calcium in their diet often have high blood pressure. Like potassium, calcium works by helping your body get rid of sodium through your urine. Cheese, milk, yogurt, broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, mackerel, perch, and salmon are good sources of calcium.
Vitamin C. High C means low blood pressure. Several studies show that people with higher levels of vitamin C in their blood have lower blood pressure — and those with low levels of vitamin C have higher blood pressure.This antioxidant vitamin may reduce high blood pressure by strengthening the connective tissue, or collagen, that supports your blood vessel walls. That makes your blood vessels more capable of handling the pressure of the pumping blood.
Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine reported that a daily dose of 500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C lowered systolic blood pressure an average of 13 points after one month. That would be like eating seven oranges or drinking five glasses of orange juice a day.
Other good sources of vitamin C include sweet red peppers, green peppers, strawberries, cantaloupe, black currants, brussels sprouts, broccoli, tomato juice, collard greens, and cabbage.
Omega-3 fatty acids. Watch out for fats, but remember — some fats are good for you. Omega-3 fatty acids, the polyunsaturated type found in fish, offer help for your high blood pressure.
Most people eat much more omega-6, a polyunsaturated fat found in vegetable oils, than omega-3. Your body converts omega-6 into a substance that constricts your arteries. That makes your heart work harder to pump blood throughout your body, which increases your blood pressure.
Several studies show that eating fish or taking fish oil supplements lowers blood pressure. That’s because your body converts omega-3 into a gentler substance that doesn’t tighten your arteries as much. Switching from omega-6 to omega-3 can be an easy way to lower your blood pressure. You get omega-3 mainly from fatty fish, such as salmon, mack-erel, and tuna. Other foods with omega-3 include flaxseed, canola oil, walnuts, wheat germ, and some green leafy vegetables, like collard and turnip greens.
Monounsaturated fat. Further evidence that not all fats are bad comes from olive oil. This staple of the Mediterranean diet contains mostly monounsaturated fat. In a recent study comparing diets rich in olive oil and sunflower oil, a polyunsaturated fat, the olive oil diet drastically lowered blood pressure while the sunfloweroil diet only lowered it slightly. The olive oil diet made such a difference that many people on the diet cut in half the amount of blood pressure medication they were taking, under the guidance of their doctors.
Fiber. You already know you should eat fiber for protection against heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Well, here’s one more rea-son. A four-year follow-up study found that women who ate more than 25 grams of fiber a day were about 25 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure as women who ate less than 10 grams of fiber every day.
Fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain breads and cereals are good sources of fiber. For example, one potato with skin has 5 grams of fiber, an orange has 3 grams, and a cup of raisin bran has 8 grams.
Fiber works best over the long term. Don’t get discouraged if your blood pressure doesn’t drop right away.
Garlic. This fragrant herb does more than add flavor to meals. It also lowers cholesterol and protects your arteries from clogging. That way, your blood can zip through with less “oomph” from your heart. Some studies show garlic lowers your systolic blood pressure by nearly 7 percent and your diastolic blood pressure by almost 8 percent.
DASH recommends using both garlic and its cousin, the onion, as tasty cooking alternatives to salt.
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