A few weeks ago, I received an email listing 15 Plant-Based Foods to Fight Hypertension, from the website Care2 Healthy Living. It details the simple steps we each can take to reduce our blood pressure and, at the same time, limit the amount of drugs we’re taking. Of course, it all starts in the foods we eat and that takes us right outside to our gardens.
That plant based diets are a key ingredient of a healthy lifestyle should come as no surprise. Cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s to name only a few, all have been shown to be affected by heavy consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Now, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) officially recognizes the effects of healthy eating on high blood pressure in the DASH Eating plan. DASH or, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension is a diet low in salt, cholesterol and saturated fats and one that is rich in whole grains, fish, poultry, beans and nuts. It also focuses on low or fat-free dairy products and, as diets go, is one that contains fewer sweets, sugars or red meats.
The 15 plant-based foods are berries, whole grain cereals, potatoes, beets, cacao, celery, broccoli, dandelion, black beans, garlic, ground flax seeds, bananas, apricots, pumpkin seeds and cashew nuts. And of the 15, some are very easily grown in the urban garden.
Berries, as in strawberries, blueberries or raspberries can be grown in soil or in containers, making them all the more easily cultivated within city limits. They’re rich in vitamin C, potassium and other antioxidants.
Potatoes are full potassium and magnesium. High levels of potassium can curb hypertension while magnesium helps to lower stress and improve overall immunity.
Celery contains phytochemicals (phthalides) that relax muscle tissue in artery walls that facilitates blood flow (lowers blood pressure).
Broccoli is rich in fiber, potassium, calcium, vitamin C, magnesium and chromium, which regulates blood sugar and insulin.
Garlic is another food easily grown in the urban garden that promotes good health as a blood thinner. It also helps lower cholesterol and when chopped, produces allicins, a substance that has both antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.
Honorable mention on my list of foods easily grown in the city-even though it’s readily available-is one that’s been around for centuries. Cacao, more precisely dark chocolate, is high in flavonoids, compounds that cause dilation of blood vessels. Eating one ounce of chocolate goes a long way in reducing hypertension. Look for the sweet that’s 50 to 70 percent cacao.
Food as medicine is nothing new. But it only works as a component of a healthy lifestyle and not as a stand-alone solution. In addition to diet, individuals should quit smoking, limit their alcohol intake, learn to manage stress and exercise regularly.
Vegetable Growing Links
Source: Care2, 15 Plant base Foods That Fight Hypertension, Magda Rod, January 3, 2014;National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), What is the DASH Eating Plan.; The Old Farmer’s Almanac (website), www.almanac.com