Creating Your Very Own Blood Pressure Reducing Meal Plan

Keeping a tab on your high blood pressure, or hypertension, is not an easy task. It is a silent condition that often comes unannounced, presents no symptoms and escalates quickly.

It is a leading risk factor for more serious heart ailments – heart attack and stroke, disability and even death. And in Australia alone, close to 6 million adults suffer from it.

Over two-thirds of people over the age of 65 have high blood pressure. The people over the age of 55 who do not suffer now, have more than 90% chance of developing it at some point in their lifetime. These are staggering statistics.

However, with some systematic changes and healthy lifestyle improvements you can beat the statistic. All you need are some simple guidelines to follow – including exercising, eating healthy and practising moderation. Also, consider not smoking and reducing daily stress.

The foods we choose to eat every day are vital to our heart’s health. Some foods can help us lower our blood pressure and boost our health and vitality.

In this blog post, I give you some pointers to help you create your very own blood pressure reducing meal plan. I discuss the healthy ingredients to include and the unhealthy foods to skip. I talk about ways to cook and eat these foods without destroying their innate goodness with overcooking. And I give you a sample meal plan that you can try for yourself.

If you’re looking to spend minimum time in the kitchen but want to maximise the flavour in your food. If you want to lower your blood pressure and want to know how to prep and plan meals for your condition – This blog post is just for you!

1. Vegetables and fruits

Vegetables are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Include 4-5 serves of fresh fruits and vegetables with your meals. Avoid processed and packaged foods to the maximum possible extent. Also, avoid junk foods and sugary drinks.

Buy produce from your local farmers markets. Go for seasonal produce and wholefoods. Buy organic certified foods wherever possible.

It is better to include a variety, however, a few vegetables and fruits are better than others for your heart. Such as beetroot, blueberries, dark beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, red pepper, squash, spinach, oranges, papaya, rockmelon, tomatoes, asparagus and broccoli to name a few.

2. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids and lots of nutritional support for your heart. Include healthy amounts of nuts and seeds in your daily intake.

Ancient grains such as quinoa and amaranth are considered superfoods. Almonds and walnuts are great to snack on and curb hunger. Flaxseeds contain phytoestrogens that boost heart health. Cacao nibs are delicious as well as healthy.

3. Lean Protein and Healthy Fats

Healthy amounts of lean protein are required for a meal to be balanced and nutritious. Tofu, tempeh and bean-curd are great options for vegetarians and vegans. Try a stir-fry with veggies for a heart-healthy meal. Non-vegetarians can consider portions of fish like salmon and tuna.

Similarly, healthy fats too are essential for a meal to be truly nutritious. Consider sweet potato and avocado. For those of us with a sweet tooth, dark chocolate with cacao and no added sugar can be a great natural substitute for a sugary dessert.

Keeping your heart health in mind and as a general rule-of-thumb consider dairy free and gluten free alternatives wherever possible.

Sample Meal Plan

Here’s a sample “blood pressure reducing meal plan” that is also dairy free, gluten free and vegan. It includes all the healthy ingredients that we discussed above.

Breakfast: almond yogurt parfait with smashed avocado.

  • 3/4 cup of non-dairy almond or coconut yogurt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. of slivered almonds

Top yogurt with almonds.

  • ½ medium-size avocado
  • Seasoning
  • Parsley to garnish

Smash the avocado into uneven pulp and season mildly. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Drink option: Green smoothie with celery, mint, spinach and cucumber.

AM Snack: ¾ cup of fresh blueberries.

Lunch: garlic grilled mushrooms and steamed brussels sprouts.

  • 2 cup fresh whole shitake mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Diced red pepper

Lightly drizzle the ingredients with butter and grill in an open pan.

  • 1 cup fresh brussels sprouts
  • Seasoning

Steam brussels sprouts and season mildly.

PM Snack: 2 cups cubed rockmelon.

Dinner: Mixed greens salad bowl with black beans and lentils, and a side of baked sweet potato

  • 1 cup mixed salad greens
  • 1 cup boiled black beans and lentils
  • ½ small brown onion diced
  • Coriander to garnish

Toss ingredients in a bowl and season with olive oil.

  • ½ small sweet potato

Slice into fine chips and bake in an oven until crisp.

Whole Fruit Vs. Fruit Juice: Making A Healthy Choice

Fruit juice seems to be a growing fad popular with everyone. People frequently consider drinking fruit juice as a healthy habit! We see juice bars cropping up at every corner and we see them crowded-full, teeming with people from all walks of life enjoying a beverage. This is a worrying symptom of a larger problem. It is easy to over-consume sugar-rich and calorie-laden juice. And if we don’t watch out, soon we’ll all suffer from diabetes, heart conditions, and eventually obesity too.

Let me reiterate – Fruit Juice is not the same as fruit. Not even close.

Fruit juice packs a significant number of fruit sugars, and unlike whole fruit, it doesn’t have the same fibrous or nutritional content. We may have to look closely, through the sheen of the marketing slogans that declare fruit juice to be beyond reproach – healthy and nutritious! And we may have to do our research. But once we have uncovered how poorly fruit juice truly compares to whole fruit, there should be no going back!

 

What makes fruit juice less effective?

When whole fruit is pounded, blended and strained into juice, its nutrition profile changes. Consider the following ways in which fruit juice is less effective on our health:

  1. Whole fruit is a whole package that contains a bit of everything. When we juice the fruit, we rid it of essential fibre and roughage. Fibre adds to the bulk, improves digestion and keeps us feeling full and satiated. Without the fibre, we are only consuming the sugar-rich juice.
  2. Whole fruits contain powerful molecules called flavonoids that boost immunity and promote health. These molecules are found in the skin and pulp of the fruit. Some of these molecules are lost when the fruit is juiced.
  3. Whole fruits also contain trace minerals and vitamins. 10% of these minerals and vitamins are lost when the fruit is processed into juice.
  4. In the case of fruit juice, the sugars (fructose and sucrose) are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. This causes an instant spike in the blood sugar levels, similar to that caused by soft drinks and colas.
  5. 100% natural fruit juice contains about 10-11% sugar (natural fruit sugar). This is a high amount of sugar packed in a glassful of juice.
  6. Fruit juice can impact your health adversely, especially if you are trying to control your weight, manage diabetes or beat obesity.
  7. Fruit juices available in the market may contain additives, preservatives, taste enhancers, chemicals and added sugars. Even the more expensive juices are stored in oxygen-depleted tanks for over a year before they are packaged. The loss of taste from the oxygen depletion process is compensated for by adding ‘flavour packs’ to the juice. Compare that with a piece of fresh fruit. Even though the fruit may not be organically grown, it still contains fewer harmful substances than processed and packaged juice.

 

What are Australians choosing: whole fruit or fruit juice?

The question demands our attention! Studies show that while 60% of Australians eat some fruit, only 54% eat enough to meet the recommended limit of two serves a day. The statistic changes drastically when we consider fruit juice:

  • Over 83% of people drink fruit juice at least once a week.
  • Around 34% of consumers are concerned about the amount of sugar in fruit juices, but a striking 76% believe juice is healthy.

 

When is juice good?

Convenience in terms of packaging and year-round availability make juice a good option sometimes. Especially during hot summer months, when juice may help beat the heat with rapid rehydration. Juice is also effective during specific circumstances, when you are sick and recovering, when you are suffering from certain deficiencies and when it is advised and recommended by a healthcare professional.  People often get a variety in their fruit intake through juices than they would otherwise get by eating those many whole fruits!

Also, vegetable and fruit combination juices and smoothies are a whole lot healthier than plain fruit juice. And fresh fruit juice that is squeezed at home is definitely better than a packaged juice box from the store.

 

Bottom line?

It is all too easy to give in to the divine flavours of fruit juices, and over-consume. But it is wise to remember, that they won’t satiate, don’t pack the same nutrition and are calorie-rich. The natural sugars in fruit juices make their effect on the human body comparable to that of soft fizzy drinks. So, at best sip with caution. And if you can, swap it instead – with a piece of fruit and peace of mind!

How Do You Create Your Own Salad – an Amateur’s Step by Step Guide

For some people putting a salad together is like blinking an eye. For some however, especially if your cultural background doesn't involve eating salads, then putting a salad together can be a very daunting job. I must admit; I find it very challenging.
So with summer just round the corner, I thought it would be timely to put together a simple step by step 'create your own salad.'

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Choose 3 LEAVES

1. Romaine lettuce
2. Ice berg
3. Rocket leaves 
4. Spinach 
5. Kailan
6. Mixed salad leaves

Choose 4 VEGETABLES

1. Cherry tomato
2. Broccoli
3. Beet root
4. Capsicum
5. Carrots
6. Mung Bean sprouts
7. Onion
8. Green beans
9. Cucumber
10. Alfalfa sprouts

Choose 3 CONDIMENTS

1. Green olives
2. Black olives
3. Walnuts
4. Almonds
5. Capers
6. Chickpeas
7. Tempeh croutons
8. Tofu croutons

Choose 1 DRESSING

1. Tahini
2. Olive oil and lemon juice dressing
3. Honey and Balsamic vinegar

Choose 1 SIDE

1. Quinoa
2. Brown Rice
3. Rye bread
4. Raw seed crackers
5. Brown rice chappati
6. Couscous
 
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There you go. Dozens of salad recipes all in one place. Let me know if you found this helpful.