f you have high blood pressure you have probably been told to reduce your sodium consumption. While some foods naturally contain sodium, more than 75% of our intake comes from processed foods. If we, as a nation, reduced our intake by more than half, to less than 1,500 mg. per day, as the American Heart Association recommends, high blood pressure would be reduced 26% and we would save more than $26 billion in healthcare costs in a year.
So what can you do to lower your blood pressure? Look at food labels and compare, the less salt the better when comparing similar items; don’t cook with salt, don’t add salt to foods, and eat less processed, more natural foods. When eating out, ask for foods to be prepared without salt, ask for sauces or dressings on the side and use sparingly, and pick items that are prepared more naturally, such as baked, broiled or steamed instead or fried, breaded or crusted. Certain types of cuisines are normally higher in sodium, like Chinese food, so be prepared to ask for things prepared to your liking.
What else can help your blood pressure? Eating high potassium foods can help because they help excrete sodium out out of the body through urine and relax blood vessels which helps lower blood pressure. Just make sure that you don’t take potassium supplements without consulting with your doctor.
Anything else? The American Heart Association also recommends aerobic exercise, 40 minutes per day, of moderate to vigorous intensity. Eat a diet with fruits and vegetables, low fat/ non- fat dairy, poultry, fish and nuts, and limit red meat, sugary food and beverages, and processed foods. Maintain an ideal body weight and use stress reduction activities such as meditation and yoga.
How can you fit this all in? Make a plan to incorporate one new item per week, such as lowering sodium this week or start walking 10 minutes a day, and stick to it. Keep yourself accountable by “self monitoring” either in a journal or on a computer application. Invite family and friends to join you on your journey. See the finish line; less medications, more energy, better health.
High Sodium Foods to Limit/ Avoid/ or look for low sodium versions- ketchup, canned or dried soups, stocks and bouillon cubes, gravy granules, soy sauce, mustard, pickles, olives, frozen foods and meals, breaded chicken products, sausages, bacon, ham, processed cheese, some breads, biscuits, cakes and many snack foods. Remember your limit - less that 1500- 2000 mg/ day.
Alternatives- fresh, frozen or dried herbs, onions, garlic, shallots, chillies, ginger, cinnamon, lemon juice, pepper, and vinegar.
High Potassium Foods to include- sweet potatoes, potatoes, greens, spinach, mushrooms, lima beans, peas, bananas, tomatoes, oranges, orange juice, grapefruit and grapefruit juice (talk to doctor if on medications for cholesterol), prunes, prune juice, cantaloupe, honeydew, apricots, raisins, and dates.
(Information contained here is meant to help but does not replace medical advice. Some information adapted from American Heart Association.)
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
2 yellow onions, thickly sliced
4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
2 Celery Stalks, cut into 2 inch chunks
1 whole pasture raised chicken, washed
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
1 lemon, halved
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and pat the outside dry.
- Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken.
- Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic.
- Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper.
- Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken.
- Place the onions, celery and carrots, in a roasting pan.
- Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil.
- Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.
- Roast the chicken for approximately 45 minutes- 1 hour. White meat should be 160 degrees when you remove it as it will cook further when taken out of oven, dark meat should be 170.
- Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes.
- Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.
Poached Peaches with Basil
1 cup white wine
1 ½ cup water
1 ½ cup sugar
1 bunch fresh basil
- Place the wine, water and sugar in a wide bottomed saucepan and stir to dissolve sugar slightly.
- Place the pan on the stove over medium heat and bring mixture to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes and then reduce heat, leaving the syrup to simmer.
- Cut the peaches in half and remove pits gently.
- Drop half of the basil leaves into the syrup then gently place the peach halves cut side down into the syrup.
- Poach for about 3 minutes and then gently turn over using a slotted spoon.
- Continue poaching for an additional 3 – 4 minutes until soft (cooking time will depend on ripeness of peaches).
- Carefully prick the cut side of the peaches to check for tenderness. The peels should be wrinkling up as well. You may cook the peaches in two batches if all the halves will not fit in the pan at once.
- Remove the peaches to a plate with a slotted spoon.
- When cool enough to handle, gently slide the skins off and discard.
- Add all but about six basil leaves to the syrup and bring to a boil, boiling until reduced by about half.
- Remove from the heat.
- Pour any juices that have collected on the plate with the peaches into the syrup.
- Leave to cool to room temperature.
- The peaches can be covered with plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for several hours.
- When ready to serve, place two peach halves on a plate and drizzle with a little basil syrup.
- Reserve the remaining syrup for another use. Garnish with basil leaves.
Carena Lowenthal, MS, RD, CDN