High blood pressure is a risk factor for some of our most worrisome health problems, such as heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. And it is not as uncommon as you might think. Too much salt, smoking, not enough exercise, and carrying too much weight are all common culprits that send blood pressure rising. There are no obvious symptoms of high blood pressure. In fact, you can have it without knowing it! This is why it is so important to get your blood pressure checked regularly by a health professional. Your health care provider can also provide advice for managing your blood pressure if it is elevated.
If you know you have high blood pressure, you are probably already watching your salt intake. But what other dietary changes can you make to help? Besides cutting back on salt, increasing your intake of certain minerals can help keep your blood pressure under control. Here are four tasty food swaps to try:
swap cookies for a banana
While too much sodium in your diet can increase blood pressure, too little potassium can have the same effect. Potassium helps our bodies get rid of salt by signaling to the kidneys to move sodium from the blood into the urine and out of the body. Including natural sources of potassium in your diet is as simple as eating more fruit. Bananas, oranges, pineapple, dried apricots, dates, and figs are all outstanding sources of potassium.
swap from white to whole-grain bread
There is no need to avoid carbs, but it is important to switch to whole grains. Refined grains, such as white bread and sugary cereals, tend to have higher levels of added salt. By switching to whole-grain options, you’re not only cutting back on salt but also getting extra health benefits. Whole grains help maintain your heart, brain, and gut health. They can not only help to lower your risk of high blood pressure but also reduce high blood pressure if it is already an issue. When you shop, look for high-fiber breakfast cereals, such as Fiber One or All-Bran Buds; whole-grain pasta and bread; and grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, and amaranth.
swap chips for nuts
Instead of nibbling on salty chips and crackers, reach for a handful of unsalted nuts. This is another lower sodium swap with big benefits. Studies have shown that regularly eating a handful of nuts a day can lower your risk of high blood pressure by 30 percent. Almonds, Brazil nuts, and cashews also contain magnesium. This important mineral helps to regulate many of the body’s systems, including blood pressure and blood glucose. Magnesium can also be found in leafy greens and some legumes, including chickpeas.
swap to a plant milk with calcium
Many plant milks are naturally low in saturated fat, making these already a helpful swap for heart health. However, did you know that more than maintaining healthy bones and teeth, adequate calcium is also linked with lower blood pressure? It helps the blood vessels relax and contract when they need to.
So, if you’re following a low- or nondairy diet, make sure you are choosing a plant milk that is fortified with calcium. Simply check the nutrition information on the package and look for a plant milk that provides at least 225 milligrams of calcium per 8 ounces and is low in saturated fat (200 grams or less per 8 ounces).
To learn more about your own blood pressure, talk with a local health care provider who can give you individualized information.
Article courtesy of Sanitarium Health Food Company. For more information and heart-healthy recipes, visit sanitarium.com.au.