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Healthier eating for high blood pressure

Do you have high blood pressure or does high blood pressure run in your family? If so, take the next few minutes to read this column and learn the best foods to bring into your diet to help your body regulate your blood pressure.

If your blood pressure is greater than 130/85, you have a 2.5 times greater risk of suffering a heart attack than if your blood pressure was 120/80 or below. High blood pressure occurs when the pressure on the arteries and blood vessels becomes too high and the artery wall becomes distorted. This creates extra stress on the heart, and over a long period can increase the risk of stroke, heart attack and diabetes.

Focusing on foods rich in the minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium help to lower blood pressure directly by helping your arteries (the little tubes supplying your body with blood) to dilate, relax and become more flexible. Relaxed and flexible arteries make for a healthy heart.

To help lower your blood pressure, add these suggested foods into your meal plan, while working to decrease your sodium intake from processed and packaged food:

  • High calcium foods: Beyond dairy, these dark, leafy vegetables are high in calcium: kale, turnip greens, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and cabbage. In addition, canned fish (with bones) such as salmon, sardines and mackerel are also great choices.
  • High magnesium foods: Magnesium is a mineral that most of us are deficient in. Foods such as green leafy vegetables (e.g., spinach, kale, arugula), Swiss chard, lentils, white and black beans, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, barley and quinoa, are all good sources of magnesium. A quality magnesium supplement may also be beneficial in addition to your diet, but make sure to also supplement zinc along with it.
  • High potassium foods: Fruits rich in potassium include bananas, apricots, prunes, dates, cantaloupe, watermelon and strawberries. Foods such as salmon, beans, turkey and fish also contain potassium as do peas, spinach and tomatoes. If you are consuming three of these items a day, you are probably getting enough potassium, and do not need to add a supplement.

Potassium Alert! If you have kidney disease or heart disease, your potassium intake must be monitored by your medical doctor.

What about sodium? The easiest and most effective step you can take to help reduce your sodium intake, is to reduce or remove processed foods from your diet. In addition, you can pay attention to the salt that you use.

Best salt to use: It’s important to understand that not all salt options are equally high in sodium. Regular table salt is a poor choice for those struggling with high blood pressures as it consists of 97.5% sodium chloride and another 2.5% chemicals (and no healthy minerals). Celtic Sea Salt is a much healthier choice for those with high blood pressure and has many more trace minerals than almost any other salt and less sodium than table salt. Pink Himalayan salt is also a healthy choice and contains less sodium than table salt yet doesn’t have the mineral content of Celtic Sea Salt.

In closing, foods loaded with minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium are all great for supporting high blood pressure. It’s also important to watch your overall sodium intake and swap out your table salt for a healthier mineral-based salt such as Celtic Sea Salt.

Fran Sutherlin, RD, MS is a local registered dietitian, specializing in using digestive wellness to prevent or manage chronic disease. She has a master’s degree in nutrition, is a personal health coach, speaker, and owner of Sustainable Nutrition. She can be reached at 970-444-2122 or fran@fransutherlin.com.