HTN (high blood pressure) affects 29% of US Adults, which is 1 in 3 people. Having high blood pressure greatly increases the risk of developing heart disease or strokes. High BP is genetic, but there are several dietary changes that can lower it.
- Fruits & veggies. September is fruits & veggies- more matters month. People with HTN should aim for 4 servings of fruit and 4 or more servings of veggies/day. Dark green vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli are good sources of potassium as are dark orange fruits and vegetables like citrus (oranges/grapefruit), peaches, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and squash. Kiwi, bananas and tomatoes are also high in potassium.
- High calcium foods, like dairy products. Dairy is not just for strong bones and teeth. Studies show that people who have higher calcium intakes, have lower blood pressure. Choose low sodium string cheese, low fat yogurt, skim or 1% milk. Two servings/day are advised. 5% or less sodium is advised on cheese (read labels)
- Nuts, seeds and legumes. These foods are high in magnesium, potassium and fiber, all of which are heart-healthy. Aim for 4-5 servings/week (small handful, ¼ cup is a serving for nuts, ½ cup for beans or peas).
- Whole grains. Whole grains like steel cut oats, bulgur, 100% whole wheat bread are high in magnesium and fiber, which have been shown to lower blood pressure. Aim for at least 3 servings/day.
- High sodium foods. Sorry bacon and hot dogs. Your high sodium, high fat content does not make the cut here. Sodium raises blood pressure. Even “healthy” lunch meat (like turkey breast) can be high in sodium.
- Excessive alcohol intake raises blood pressure. Moderation is 1 drink/day for women and 2 drinks/day for men. Too much can cause weight gain, fatty liver and increased risk for several cancers.
- Excess caffeine. Caffeine raises blood pressure temporarily, so don’t drink in excess. Both light and dark roasts contain about the same amount of caffeine. Arabica coffee, which is more expensive, will contain LESS caffeine. One cup/day provides 250-600 mg caffeine.
- High calorie/junk food: Excess calories lead to weight gain, which affects blood pressure. An analysis of controlled studies showed that an 11 lb. weight loss would lower blood pressure by 4.44 mm systolic and 3.57 mm diastolic. The top number refers to the amount of pressure in your arteries during contraction of your heart muscle (systolic pressure). The bottom number refers to your blood pressure when your heart muscle is between beats. (diastolic pressure).
Salads need not be boring. Adding fruit, nuts, cheese and a protein source likes beans or grilled chicken not only improves the taste and texture of salad, but can also raise the nutrient content of your favorite greens. You can also add cooked/cooled grains to make your salad a complete meal. Mix and match the following ingredients in your next salad.
September is prostate cancer awareness month. What you eat can either protect you from the disease or promote it. Below are some foods to include and those to shy away from in preventing prostate cancer.
Let’s face it. Mexican food is becoming more popular because It. Is. Delicious! But the basket of chips and salsa you’ve just inhaled has over 1000 calories and that 10 oz. margarita you’re sipping has over 500. Sadly you’ve consumed that much before your fajitas even hit the table!
The good news is you can make your meal (and weight) a little lighter with a few simple swaps. Whether you’re eating at a popular “build your own burrito” type restaurant (you know who you are…) or making Mexican at home, follow the tips below for lighter Mexican fare. Ole!
- Corn tortilla or wheat? When eating Mexican, go for 6” corn tortillas. The ingredient list is short and 2 tortillas have only 130 calories, 50 grams of sodium and 2 grams of fiber. A large flour tortilla can add an extra 200 calories to your plate.
- Beans or rice? Beans! Black or pinto beans are loaded with appetite-squelching fiber and protein, so they fill you up between meals. Beans also help manage blood sugar and lower cholesterol. Rice is nice, so opt for brown rice when you can.
- Salsa or Cheese? Salsa! Salsa is not just a condiment. It’s a vegetable! At just 25 calories per tablespoon, you’ll get a decent dose of vitamin C, potassium and lycopene, a nutrient found to reduce prostate and ovarian cancer. If you must have cheese, go light.
- Guacamole vs Sour Cream? While guacamole is calorie dense, it’s an excellent source of heart-healthy potassium and mono-unsaturated fat. Sour cream = fat and fat only.
- Wrap or bowl? Bowl please. Load your bowl with lots of lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, salsa and beans and go easy on the beef, chicken and cheese. You’d be surprised at how filling all those vegetables can be. You won’t even miss the rice or wrap.
Dust off the Dora lunchbox, school is back in session. And like every busy parent, you may be thinking, “what else can I pack in my kid’s lunch besides PB & J?” And with the risk for allergies, you may not be able to even pack that! Thankfully, there are lots of other options available.
Unless you’re living in California where Caesar salad is the norm, school lunch may or may not have much to offer. Many schools offer ‘kiddy’ favorites’ like chicken nuggets and burgers and fries, which are not very nutritious and may lead to poor eating habits over time. Below are some new ideas for lunch.
- Beans are an excellent protein source, as well as being high in fiber, folate, zinc and iron. Serve cold black beans in a salad tossed with tomatoes, corn and quinoa, or warm them up and transfer to a thermos with rice.
- Wrap sandwiches. Have your child pick their favorite filler such as hummus, turkey breast or refried beans. Tuck in some fresh spinach, salsa and shredded cheese and voila!
- It’s no wonder fruit is the number one snack among kids. It’s packaged simply and there’s a wide variety to choose from. Pick some seasonal favorites like apples, grapes, peaches or plums.
- Tuna salad. Fish is known to be brain food because of its perfect amino acid profile. Toss white albacore tuna with some light mayo, sweet relish and chopped apples for something different. Serve with whole wheat crackers or pita.
- Trail mix. No time to make a sandwich? No problem. Grab some almonds, Chex or Cheerios, dried fruit and throw it in a baggy. Add a banana and milk money and your job is done.
- Lunchables. Bad choice. These tiny trays of processed meat, cheese and refined crackers are overpriced and over-salted. You’re better off packing whole grain crackers, string cheese and fruit, which is just as simple.
- Mac n’ cheese. While macaroni has some nutritional value, the typical enriched elbows and cheese dust that make up boxed mac n’ cheese served in most cafeterias is little more than refined carbs, fat and salt.
- Granola bars. Disguised as ‘health food’, most granola bars are little more than oatmeal with chocolate coating, a few nuts and a lot of sugar. Don’t fool yourself.
- Juice boxes. Though many juice boxes contain 100% fruit juice, your child is better off eating fruit than drinking the nectar. Juice contributes excess calories and sugar- two things most kids don’t need.
- Soft white, ‘wheat’ bread. Sorry Charlie. All bread is ‘wheat’ bread. Companies are just trying to market this as whole grain, when it really isn’t. Unless the first ingredient reads “100% whole wheat flour”, you’ve got an imposter flanking your lunch meat.
Sometimes, the universe is telling you something. Yesterday was one of those days. I’d asked Fox 19 if I could do a segment on minority health in April. They replied, “how about something on diabetes prevention”? Sure, I said. Having 2 parents with diabetes and clients struggling with the disease, I know diabetes prevention pretty well. What Fox 19 didn’t know, was that I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes 2 weeks earlier. It was time to come out.
The crazy thing is that I’ve devoted my life to health promotion and disease prevention. I keep my weight in check, eat green leafy veggies daily and walk 4 days a week. But, to be honest, my diet wasn’t perfect. I’d grab a cookie now and then between or after meals or take my girls out to ice cream once or twice a month and not think twice about it. I enjoy wine, beer and chocolate like everyone else. To me, this is living!
I suppose my genes just caught up to me. Since my diagnosis, I’ve reduced my sugar and alcohol intake and upped my exercise to 30-40 minutes daily. I opted to start medication because I don’t want to end up with the complications my dad suffered- heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease and amputation. Diabetes really took a toll on his health. My mother also has diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and dementia. Many people don’t know that diabetes can also affect your brain.
Below are some tips of what to eat and what to avoid to prevent diabetes. #moreplantslesscow
Whole grains (especially those with gluten). Cereal fiber (bran flakes, shredded wheat) has been found to be protective in preventing diabetes. Following gluten-free (without needing it) raises risk for diabetes.
Full fat dairy– studies show that people that consume full fat dairy products (yogurt in particular) have lower rates of diabetes. Researchers believe in part that full fat dairy helps to control weight and low fat dairy products tend to be higher in sugar.
Beans- beans and legumes have a low glycemic index, meaning they don’t raise blood sugar as quickly as other starchy foods. Beans are high in soluble fiber, which also helps to lower cholesterol. Aim for 3 servings a week.
Veggies- more and more research points to a plant-based diet in preventing diabetes. Green leafy vegetable intake in particular (spinach, Brussels sprouts, kale) has been found to reduce risk. Most vegetables are also naturally low in carbohydrates.
Calorie free drinks (seltzer)– these are all the rage as people are looking for “more natural” beverages. They are a good substitute for soda as they’re fizzy, but do not contain artificial color or flavor.
Red meat- increasing red meat intake by just ½ serving (1-2 oz) per day raises risk of diabetes by 48%. Reducing intake of red meat lowers risk of diabetes by 14%. Red meat includes beef, pork, goat, lamb.
Processed meat- research shows a 19% increased risk of diabetes with processed meat intake (sausage, ham, bacon, hot dogs, etc).
Gluten-free products- gluten free products tend to be lower in fiber, which may increase risk of diabetes. If you don’t need a gluten-free diet, don’t follow one! Only 1% of the US population has celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Soda and other sweetened drinks- the soda industry downplays the risks of regular soda consumption, but the reality is that soda and diabetes (as well as obesity) are very strongly linked. Drinking 1-2 cans of regular soda/day raises risk for diabetes by 26%.
Heavy desserts- doughnuts- high calorie/processed desserts high in sugar and fat raise the risk of weight gain, obesity and insulin resistance. Doughnuts = crispy crime. Eat now and then, but not daily.