Those who work from Monday through Friday can sometimes feel a little jump in their step as they leave their place of work on Fridays. They may be prone to singing in the car on the way home. Their minds may be busy entertaining the idea of how they will fill their weekend, before the next five day work week begins all over again.
It’s a scene that has been depicted many times in varying forms on TV, in books and plays and in movies. Radio stations devote programs to the Friday ride home, getting listeners into a more upbeat frame of mind and ready for a change of pace. Bars, clubs and other entertainment and social gathering centers prepare for cheerful and ready-to-party patrons or simply relieved off-duty workers.
The need to spend time focusing on matters other than the stress of the daily grind is one that we can approach in many ways. Some want to overcome unhealthy stress by spending time over a drink or a meal with friends, coworkers or family. Some may prefer meditation, while others work out at the gym or jog around the neighborhood. Still others watch favorite TV programs, or listen to music, or read. Some simply want to spend more time in bed when they are not working.
Avid gardeners know that one of the finest ways to de-stress is to work with the soil between their fingers. Planting promises of blooms and gorgeous foliage yet to come encourages positive hope. Pulling ugly weeds allows the landscape to reveal the full beauty of perennials, shrubs and annuals. Pruning trees and shrubs into shape not only improves the look of the garden, but it gives a body a great workout too.
Gardening can offer three great life benefits:
- The act of gardening can relax the mind and reduce hypertension.
- Growing vegetables and fruits organically can aid in encouraging wiser food choices.
- Turning over the soil, pruning, planting and a host of other gardening activities can keep us in motion, and provide exercise for even the larger muscles of the body.
However, during the winter months, the ability to garden is usually limited to blowing the fallen leaves from the grass and flower beds, or picking up sticks and twigs that fall during storms.
While it’s not gardening weather, getting out for a walk on dry, brisk days is still a good idea. If it’s wet and cold outside, then bring healthy stress relieving dishes to your table by cooking with ingredients targeted at reducing hypertension.
High blood pressure and stress often go hand in hand, caused by factors such as mental overload, tobacco use, too little potassium or Vitamin D in the diet, poor sleeping habits, depression, obesity, lack of exercise, and genetic predisposition.
According to a 2008 study of around 30,000 women with an average age of 54, their risk of developing high blood pressure was lessened by up to 11 percent when including low-fat dairy products in the diet. Low-fat varieties of yogurt, cottage cheese, frozen yogurt, milk and cheese are all tasty ingredients that can be part of any meal time.
Incorporate whole grain oats, bran flakes or shredded wheat into your breakfast to help reduce blood cholesterol. Pair your whole grain cereal with pomegranates, bananas, blueberries, strawberries or raspberries for a delicious way to reduce artery inflammation. Plain nonfat yogurt and nuts offer magnesium and potassium.
Foods high in potassium and magnesium help to fight hypertension by dilating the blood vessels.
Baked potatoes, kidney beans, soy beans and spinach are all rich in potassium and magnesium, as well as brown rice, shitake and oyster mushrooms.
Celery and chili pepper contain good doses of Vitamin A, C and magnesium. These nutrients strengthen blood vessels, making them more supple and boosting their ability to handle blood pressure variation. Make a wonderful, warming chili using both ingredients. Use a mix of kidney and soy beans in the dish, then serve over brown rice or quinoa.
Cold water fish are great sources of magnesium. Try sardines, salmon, cod, fresh water trout, halibut, mackerel and herring. Here are some recipe suggestions:
Food flavorings plentiful in magnesium include extra virgin olive oil, walnut oil, coconut oil, and sesame oil. Use them in these and other recipes:
- Black eyed pea salad with extra virgin olive oil
- Brussel sprouts with shallots and walnut oil
- Coconut oil recipes
- Salmon with sesame orange spinach
Our choice of fluids can make a difference, too.
Blood pressure can begin to lower within only a few hours of drinking a glass of beet juice, according to a study published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension. Research indicated that the juice appeared to have the same effect as a nitrate pill. Besides whole beets and beet juice, other nitrate-rich foods include broccoli, cabbage and carrots.
When choosing what to drink, include pomegranate juice, green and black tea, red wine and concord grape juice, to add revitalizing antioxidants.
Don’t forget the chocolate when deciding how to end your meal sweetly. Chocolate varieties that contain 50 percent or more cacao are highest in flavonoids. The flavonoids in dark chocolate open blood vessels, keeping cholesterol from collecting, blood clots from forming, and maintaining healthy blood flow.
Following the garden path to exercise may be a couple of months away. Let’s spend indoor time reducing stress and blood pressure by relishing the rejuvenating effects of healing foods that are readily available, easy to prepare and simply wonderful to eat.