This diet for high blood pressure describes 4 ways to maintain your health and reduce dependency on medication.
1. Eat less salt
2. Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables
3. Don’t drink alcohol to excess
4. Avoid fatty foods
Salt can raise blood pressure as it makes the body retain water; this means that the heart has to push a greater volume of blood through the arteries.
Too much salt may reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medication.
Most of the salt we consume is hidden in ready made foods; bread, biscuits, cereals, fast foods and ready made meals.
The recommended daily intake of salt for an adult is 6g and it is easy to exceed this.
3 point plan to eat less salt
1. Check food labels for salt content - 0.3g – 1.5g salt or less per 100g of food is low to medium. Sodium content - 0.1g – 0.6g per 100g of food is low to medium.
2. Prepare as much of your own food as possible replacing salt with other spices and herbs. Be aware that stock cubes, gravy granules, soy sauce, ketchups etc can be high in salt. Check online and in cookbooks for low salt recipes.
3. A diet for high blood pressure should avoid salted snacks such as crisps and nuts. Be aware that foodstuffs such as butter, cheese, fish and olives often use salt as a preservative.
The importance of fruit and vegetables in a diet for high blood pressure cannot be overemphasized.
Fruit and vegetables contain nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fibre to maintain healthy body function. Most also contain potassium which helps to counteract the effects of too much salt in the body.
Research has shown that we should try to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. A portion is 80g or a large handful. For example an orange, apple or banana would count as a portion; as would a helping of mixed vegetables or side salad, a 150ml glass of fruit or vegetable juice or a handful of dried fruit.
5 Ways with fruit and vegetables
1. Eat them raw or plainly cooked (steamed, stir fried or roasted) n.b. potatoes, yams and the like do not count but are still nutritious in their own right.
2. Avoid ready made fruit desserts or vegetable dishes which can contain excess sugar, salt and fat.
3. Eat a wide range for interest and don’t be afraid to try new ones or new ways of preparing them. TIP: scrub some smallish potatoes but leave the skins on. Wrap in foil with a dash of olive oil and some mint leaves then bake in a moderate oven for 40 mins. Delicious and fragrant.
4. Store fruit and vegetables in a cool place and consume as soon as possible; they begin to lose their goodness over time.
5. Frozen, tinned or dried products can be just as nutritious as fresh but ensure they do not contain added sugar, salt or fats.
Drinking to excess or binge drinking can lead to higher blood pressure so stick to the recommended limits which are 21 units of alcohol a week for men and 14 units a week for women.
A single measure of spirits is 1 unit
A pint of normal strength beer is 2 units
A medium glass of wine (175ml) is 2 units
A large glass of wine (250ml) is 3 units
Most alcoholic drinks are high in calories which can lead to weight gain which in turn may raise blood pressure. Although whisky contains only 72 cals per single measure compared to a pint of beer with around 180 cals.
TIP: If you go out for a drink avoid salted snacks which make you thirsty as well as contributing to hypertension. Use mixers to make the drinks last longer.
Eating too much of the wrong types of fat can lead to raised cholesterol levels which combined with high blood pressure increase the risk of stroke or heart failure.
Avoid eating too much saturated fat which is found in products such as red meats, dairy products, palm oil and ghee.
Good fats are polyunsaturates and monounsaturates which help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. These are found in olive oil, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil and spreads made from these oils.
TIP: check the food labels for fat content; 3g – 20g total fat or 1g – 5g saturated fat per 100g of food is low to medium. Avoid foods with higher levels than these.