We’d be remiss in Heart Month if we did not talk about high blood pressure or hypertension,
one of the most lifestyle-driven diseases in this country. This silent disease does kill, and there
are 80 million with high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is the force of blood moving through arteries when the heart is at rest, and when
it is contracting. A normal reading is 120 over 80. Pre-hypertension range is 120-139 over 80-89.
High blood pressure causes damage to your heart & arteries, causes strokes and kidney disease.
A reminder of Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure:
lack of activity
Get Blood Pressure DOWN:
fruits, veggies & grains
a daily walk
There was a recent 8-week study of post-menopausal women with pre- and stage 1 hypertension.
Those who ate 1 cup of blueberries daily saw their blood pressure go down. The researchers don’t
know what component of blueberries might offer this protection, but these women did see both a
reduction in BP readings and arterial stiffness. Hopefully strawberries, blackberries and raspberries
offer the same protection.
And many previous blood pressure studies have shown that a diet higher in fruits, vegetables, legumes,
potatoes, and nuts – all sources of potassium - can naturally lower blood pressure. So eat well, stay active
and take any prescribed BP meds.
Question - Why do you enjoy eating your meals? Well, you probably like eating with others, catching up
on the day’s activities. Eating is social. And I think that it is safe to say that most of us really like the
food that we are eating. Food is tasty. Or at least it should be, right?
But it can be challenging if you are trying to reduce the amount of sodium because of your blood pressure
or omit fatty ingredients because you are trying to lose weight. These recipe adjustments can affect the taste
of meals. And meals may taste blah.
Plain pasta and rice have 0 mg sodium. Rather than buying pre-seasoned boxed options that can contain
as much as 800 mg/½ cup serving, flavor these cooked starches with ….
Garlic, fresh parsley, herbs and spices
Mrs. DASH salt-free seasoning blends
Olive oil or other flavored oils such as sesame and walnut
Flavor meatloaf with more than dried soup mix or salt-based seasonings. Season with…
Finely grated fresh vegetables such as carrots or zucchini, diced peppers and onions
Minced fresh garlic
Dried Italian herb blend
Oven-roast or grill fresh vegetables. Brush lightly or season with…
Flavorful olive or grapeseed oil
Fresh lemon or lime juice
Dried rosemary and/or thyme
When you make your usual recipes that rely on lots of fatty ingredients, think of change-ups.
- A small amount of flavorful oil such as sesame, olive or walnut oil.
- Lite mayo or Miracle Whip vs the high fat version.
- Substitute reduced-fat milk or evaporated milk for whole milk or cream.
- Replace oil with applesauce or baby prunes or squash in bakery items such as muffins.
It’s Heart Month. One important piece to preventing heart disease, the nation’s top killer, is to obtain
and then maintain a normal LDL-(or bad)-cholesterol reading. Maintain good blood pressure and blood
sugar level readings – they are also key for cardiovascular disease prevention. Getting in a daily 30-minute
walk is also an inexpensive tool for lowering LDL-cholesterol and boosting up the protective HDL-cholesterol.
Let's review dietary suggestions for getting that harmful LDL-cholesterol down to less than 100 mg/dl:
Dietary focus for a healthy LDL-cholesterol:
go fishing often,
enjoy meatless meals, and
include soy foods
UP the dietary fiber – it will bind cholesterol in the intestinal tract:
vegetables (especially legumes),
fruits (especially apples, pears, oranges and grapefruit),
Increase the healthy fats – they can help reduce cholesterol production in the liver:
olive oil & other oils,
nuts and seeds
Whether from omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish or phytosterols in nuts or isoflavones in
soy and steeped tea, there are numerous healthy properties to certain foods that will help you
naturally lower LDL-cholesterol. Yes, medications such as statins can help, but perhaps you can
avoid them for a few years or be able to take just a minimal dose. And certain folks do not
tolerate these statins medications with side effects such as muscle pain or elevate liver enzymes.
So this New Year, take the time to assess your meals and snacks to see if you might easily include more healthful heart-protective foods.
Although nutrition attention recently has been focused on eating more of the healthy fats, with a push toward olive oil and other oil, as well as nuts, cancer researchers still feel there is a benefit to keeping fat intake very modest and somewhat on the low side. UCLA Medical Center researchers concluded this after a long term study of women with breast cancer. The greatest dietary benefit was for early stage breast cancer patients- they had the lowest death rates.
- included 2,400 women
- half ate a low-fat diet
- they were followed for 15 years
The Low-Fat Group:
- reduced dietary fat intake by 10%
- they lost 6 pounds, and
- had a lower death rate from all-causes
Why might eating low-fat be helpful?
Researchers suspect that LESS dietary fat AND weight loss = reduction in inflammation.
And inflammation is connected to both increased heart disease and cancer risks.
Several of the researchers and breast cancer specialists noted that making these lower fat dietary
changes is an easy and inexpensive way to possibly reduce the risk of premature death in breast cancer survivors.
So how might fat intake be lowered?
1) Have a poached egg rather than a fried egg.
2) Select a nonfat yogurt or cottage cheese rather than a higher fat version.
3) Include some meatless meals like a marinara sauce over pasta or bean soup to avoid the animal fat.
4) Fill up on more fruits and vegetables, which are completely fat free.
5) Most bakery recipes can be adjusted to use natural applesauce or baby fruit in place of vegetable oil, saving 100s of fat calories.
With over 65% of our adult population either overweight or obese, it is easy to see why new diet plans
pop up almost every single week. It is a confusing dieting world. There are ideas to cut out all meat or
to eat only meat with a protein approach, or to cut out all grains or to eat mostly grains. A popular diet
is the Paleo diet. Anthropology researchers looked into this dieting approach.
Foods OKAY on the Paleo Diet:
grass-fed meat, free-range poultry, fish, game
fresh fruits & veggies
nuts & seeds
fats including olive and avocado oils
Foods NOT okay on the Paleo Diet:
flour and flour-containing foods (breads, crackers, cereals, etc.), oats, cereal grains
rice, legumes, quinoa
vegetable oils (corn, sunflower, etc.)
dairy foods (milk, cheese and yogurt)
Anthropology researchers note that Paleolithic man:
had short lifespans
ate to survive and reproduce
ate a wider range of foods, depending upon the environment and climate where they lived
During Paleo times the northern hunter-gatherers may have lived on more meat while those
hunter-gatherers nearer the equator probably ate more plant foods. The researchers also noted
that the foods today are different from Paleo times because of growing practices over the years.
So the apples of today are different from a few hundred years ago, and definitely different from
the Stone Age varieties.
Since the Paleo life expectancy was so short, we really have no idea that the type of foods eaten
during that time of man will promote a long healthy life. It seems to be another way to sell books,
cookbooks & Paleo foods.
In the New Year you might have some stated health goals that you plan to work on. Perhaps you want to reduce your
blood pressure medication by losing weight or get in a daily 20 minute walk. Research shows that having more meals
prepped from home can be a health advantage with a lower intake of calories, sodium, sugar and preservatives, and a
higher intake of fruits and vegetables. This might be a great goal for 2015.
Reasons that young folks, busy parents and over-worked adults do not cook more meals at home:
- Lack of time is at the top of the list.
- Some admit that they do not have basic cooking skills.
- Others just do not understand recipes.
Advantages of the preparation of food at home:
- Save money from the family budget.
- More nutritious meals, if healthy foods/ingredients are chosen.
Tips to make food prep at home happen:
- Take basic cooking classes at your local community college.
- Take advantage of cooking classes on line (Martha Stewart has some good ones).
- Select recipes with only a few ingredients.
- Make a simple weekly menu.
- Grocery shop from the menu.
- Try one new recipe a week to start.
And then my motto is cook once for 2 meals - think of 2 or more meals that you can get from that one cooked dish:
- Roast a lean pork tenderloin for one meal, and then shred and season the leftovers for pulled pork BBQ another night.
- Cook extra baked potatoes to make potato soup with the leftover spuds.
- Cook a big batch of chili in the crockpot during the day; then add a tossed salad for a quick-to-the-table meal at night. The leftover chili can be served over baked potatoes or wild rice at another meal.
- Bake a salmon filet and then enjoy salmon cakes the next night from the leftovers.
Two meals from one recipe!
Okay, the holidays are over, and what have you been left with – maybe a few unwanted pounds? Hopefully your blood
pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels did not suffer from overindulging and lack of exercise. Well, not to despair!
It’s back on track with healthy foods choices for the beginning of this New Year and beyond.
A few reminders to help you make healthier, low-calorie food selections for weight management.
How many calories to take in if you want to lose weight?
Think of the Rule of Ten: multiply your weight goal times 10 = daily calories for weight loss.
For ex: weight goal of 150 pounds x 10 = 1,500 calories/day for weight loss.
Calorie Saving Tips:
1) DOWNSIZE portions
2) Cut back on fats
3) Bump up fiber via fruits, vegetables and whole-grains
4) Drink primarily calorie-free beverages
5) Keep between-meal snacks to 100-150 calories
6) Sit down to eat and enjoy your meals with few distractions
Easy ways to save calories for gradual weight loss.
Any reasonable changes that you make to lose weight will work; for example…
- Bypass the chips at lunch when you have a sandwich. That is reasonable versus skipping lunch completely.
- Enjoy a homemade beef stew with potatoes and vegetables, but skip the roll or bread.
- Add a large vegetable salad to a pizza meal to help you eat one or two slices less of pizza rather than trying to skip having pizza completely.
What changes can you make that are reasonable and sustainable for both weight loss and then maintenance?
Do you find yourself at holiday parties, struggling to make reasonable food choices at the buffet table?
It can be very difficult to resist the many holiday food temptations that are all around us.
Well, if you would like to NOT gain the 5-10 pounds that most folks gain between Thanksgiving and the New Year,
here are a few calorie-saving tips.
1) Eat 3 meals as usual to prevent overeating later in the day
2) Savor small bites of the richest foods
3) Lighten up beverages by alternating calorie-containing drinks with calorie-free
Great Holiday Buffet Choices:
1) fruit and vegetable dishes (of course)
2) smoked salmon and spiced or grilled shrimp
3) any dishes that seem to be baked, broiled or grilled vs. fried
small flavorful cookies
one-crust fruit pies or fruit crisps with oatmeal topping
The holidays are filled with food temptations loaded with fat and calories. Be sure to enjoy some of the
seasonal treats but not at the expense of your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar levels or weight.
When you are going to a holiday event I bet there will be many folks in attendance who’ll appreciate your
effort to bring a healthy appetizer or dish – there is only so much rich food that we can handle!
And who wants to spoil the holidays with an unexpected trip to the Emergency Room.
And then, of course, keep up with your daily walks and bring everyone else along to continue family time in a very healthy way.
Welcome to the holidays. And the holiday season usually means extra food, special meals, and loads of additional calories.
There goes the waistline or a spike in your blood pressure or blood sugar readings! This year think about making a few easy
changes to some of those family favorites to trim the calories, sodium and sugar to help you make it to the New Year in tip-top shape.
Here are a few healthy food prep tips.
Appetizer Ideas (make at home from scratch to reduce sodium and fat)
Black bean or hummus dip
Creamy dips made with Greek yogurt, nonfat buttermilk, light mayonnaise and/or reduced fat sour cream
Black bean-corn-salsa dip
Side Dishes for holiday meals
Homemade stuffing or dressing made with whole-grain bread cubes, salt-free broth or apple cider and chopped walnuts and pecans
Baked fruits such as apples and pears
Oven-roasted vegetables – Brussels sprouts, acorn squash, sweet potatoes
Coat pans with vegetable oil cooking spray
Reduce sugar in bakery recipes by 1/4- 1/3
Make single-crust pies
Even during the holidays it is possible to eat healthy by simple recipe modifications. Before you dive in and make a recipe in the
traditional way, just take a look at those ingredients to see if you can make an adjustment:
Can you cut the salt in half or even cut it out completely?
Could you use whole-grains to make a recipe, thus increasing the fiber – for example, wild or brown rice in a stuffing rather than white bread cubes?
Feature seasonal fruits and vegetables at all meals.
And then attention to the volume of food eaten- perhaps smaller portions will be satisfying enough.
And be sure to include an extra long walk each day to balance out the extra calories.
As we all know, a high intake of sodium and salt may have an impact on the development of high blood pressure later in life. And this seems to hold true for children as well.
For example, in a U.S. study of over 6,000 kids, each additional 1,000 mg of sodium per day resulted in an increase in blood pressure readings.
A recent Melbourne, Australia study of youngsters aged 3 months to 18 months adds some ammunition to previous high blood pressure studies. Researchers found that when
Family Foods were added to the diet of little ones, the sodium intake doubled from 486 mg in the 9-month old children to 1,069 mg in the 18-month old kids.By 18-months of
age, children were eating a variety of Family Foods that contained a fair amount of sodium/salt from –
Researchers found that the children with the highest intake of sodium by 9 months of age had stopped breastfeeding at a younger age, and had solid foods introduced
earlier in life. And this makes sense, doesn't it, because breast milk and infant formula are not high in sodium, and neither are the early baby foods such as infant cereals,
baby fruits and vegetables – they are all prepared without the addition of salt or preservatives that contain sodium.
And the reason for this fuss about the sodium content of children’s diets – it may result in high blood pressure later in life. SO current guidelines are to hold off on the introduction of solid foods until 6 months of age but have a discussion with your own pediatrician first.
Nutrition Tip: when your children begin eating family meals with the rest of the family, make as many dishes as possible from scratch to keep the sodium/salt intake to a minimum.
Rita P. Smith, MS, RD, CDE is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She has worked in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for 35 years, working with patients and their family members to help guide healthy food choices.