High blood pressure is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke, but the particular mechanisms by which this occurs are not as widely known. For this and other reasons, the CDC reports that 50% of American adults have hypertension but only 25% have it under control. However, how exactly does one go about reducing blood pressure?
The common assumption is probably “put down the saltshaker.” That's sound advice, but it's not the only healthy habit that can help reduce blood pressure. You may reduce the amount of sodium in your diet by making a number of little changes to your daily eating and cooking routines. Below, we'll list seven of the very best, but first, some blood pressure basics to get the proverbial juices flowing.
The human heart and blood vessels can be compared to a water system (your blood vessels). The pressure of the blood against the artery wall as the heart pumps blood through the circulatory system to deliver oxygen to the body is known as blood pressure. Vessels in good health are like bendy pipes that can change shape to accommodate any fluctuations in blood pressure. However, when arteries are “hardened” and unable to dilate, the effort required to flow blood through those pipes increases significantly, putting a significant strain on the heart. In medical terms, that's known as hypertension.
Hypertension, when left untreated, can cause permanent damage to the inner lining of the blood vessels. Heart enlargement, heart failure, heart attack, stroke, dementia, kidney failure, eye damage, and erectile dysfunction are just a few of the conditions that might develop as a result. It's clear that taking care of your heart and arteries requires the expertise of a plumber. Use these simple tips to prepare and eat in a way that helps reduce blood pressure.
- Watch out for the sneaky sodium
Read food labels thoroughly before making any purchases. The Balanced Nutritionist's Jamie Nadeau, RD, cautions consumers that labels claiming “25% less sodium” are often misleading because they simply mean that the product has less sodium than their original product. “Keep in mind that many foods that are heavy in sodium do not taste particularly salty.”
Bread, cheeses, salad dressings, and condiments are all surprising sources of sodium. As an illustration, half a cup of cottage cheese has roughly 373 milligrammes of sodium.
2. Pressure can be reduced by using fibre
According to Rhyan Geiger, RDN, owner of Phoenix Vegan Dietitian, consuming more of the healthiest foods, such as lentils, beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, will help reduce blood pressure. Not only does the fibre in these meals benefit your digestive system, but the vitamins and antioxidants they offer your cardiovascular system as well. Increased fibre consumption has been shown to reduce blood pressure, according to research published in Frontiers in Nutrition.
3. Washing and drying your hands three times
Expert and registered dietitian nutritionist Lisa R. Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim & The Portion Teller Plan, and member of the Eatthis.com medical review board, suggests cutting down on sodium intake by opting for dry pasta and beans rather than canned varieties, which typically contain high levels of salt as a preservative.
Furthermore, fresh meats should be used instead of preserved or canned varieties. Young claims that processed meats like bacon and ham have far more sodium than fresh cuts of beef, poultry, or hog. Furthermore, if you have no choice but to utilise canned beans and veggies due to time constraints, at least give them a good rinsing to get rid of the excess sodium. The Food Analysis Laboratory Control Center (FALCC) at Virginia Tech discovered that the salt content of canned veggies can be reduced by between 9 and 23% just by washing them with lukewarm tap water and letting them drain.
4 . Consider using a sea salt replacement.
According to clinical nutritionist Sara Kahn, MS, CNS, CDN, kelp flakes can be used as a substitute for salt to add a subtle but noticeable saltiness to cuisine.
Kahn explains that dried and granulated kelp is a form of seaweed that can be used in place of salt to add a savoury flavour to food. It's a good source of iodine, along with magnesium, calcium, and iron.
Sesame salt, or gomasio, is another flavouring option. It's a versatile condiment that goes well with a wide variety of dishes.
In addition to providing calcium, potassium, and iron, this “made from a blend of toasted sesame seeds and a little bit of sea salt” product has a lower sodium content than regular table salt.
5. Use herbs to add flavour to food
Preparing a dinner for someone with a high tolerance for salt can be intimidating when you're just starting out with low-sodium cooking. Liberal use of salt-free seasonings like herbs and spices is one technique to make up for the omission of sodium.
Nadeau argues that “proper seasoning” can reduce the amount of salt required in a dish.
Try different combinations of the many herbs and spices at your disposal, as well as garlic, onion, lemon juice, and onion powder. Do you doubt that garlic can appease the salty dog at your dinner table? Here's the deal: Those with hypertension in a small Pakistani research were given samples of food prepared with varying quantities of salt. Based on the findings, it appears that the garlic-infused food samples with reduced sodium content are the ones that people would like to eat.
6. Produce your own homemade low-sodium soy sauce.
Do you have a bottle of soy sauce stashed away somewhere in your fridge? Do not discard it. Soy sauce with less sodium? Geiger recommends diluting it with water.
Geiger explains that the low sodium choice in the supermarket is simply made by adding water to reduce the sodium content.
For the same reason, mixing high-sodium jarred sauces or canned veggies with low-sodium alternatives might help cut back on the total amount of salt used.
Ragu Old World Style Marinara Sauce, for instance, has roughly 500 mg of salt per serving, which is about a third of the suggested daily limit of 1,500 mg for most adults recommended by the American Heart Association. Young recommends substituting heart-healthy olive oil and garlic for a jarred sauce when serving spaghetti.
7 . Be smart about where you eat.
We don't get much of our daily sodium simply by shaking a shaker of salt into our food. Both processed meals and restaurant food are major contributors to our salt intake. Consequently, avoiding eating out is one of the best strategies to substantially reduce sodium intake. Do more of your cooking at home, where you can choose exactly what goes into your dishes. But because most of us aren't going to stop eating out altogether, the next best thing is to go into restaurants with an idea of what you're ordering and try to stick to the lower-sodium options.
Appetite published an observational research a few years ago that found the vast majority of diners have no idea how much sodium they are consuming. It was discovered by the researchers that 25% of those eating out were either unable or reluctant to provide an estimate of the salt level of their meals. When asked to estimate the sum, 90% of respondents erred on the low side.
What's the main point? The best advice is to always be ready. You should look at the restaurant's menu online before going. Plan ahead and choose some low-sodium meals to bring along. Try to focus on steamed, baked, broiled, and poached dishes because they typically have less sodium. Meats that have been fried, creamed, or marinated should be avoided due to their high salt content. Stay away from the bread basket as well, as most types of bread contain a lot of salt. Feel like a burger?
As an alternative to cheese, Kahn suggests substituting avocado for its smooth texture and extra fibre.
Kahn recommends ordering dressings and sauces on the side so you can regulate your intake. The salt content of these condiments is notoriously high.