World health day: Food focus

Studies have shown a reduction in salt intake reduces high blood pressure.

Studies have shown a reduction in salt intake reduces high blood pressure.

Yesterday, April 7th, celebrated World health Day, marking the founding of the World Health Organization. This year’s aim was to raise awareness of high blood pressure. The usual guidance from the media about smoking, eating and exercising continues. But, what is eating well? Which foods and overpriced superfoods should we be eating to avoid high blood pressure?

High blood pressure (HBP) can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure and many other diseases. It was a health warning this year as it can be controlled by diet and lifestyle. Stress is also an important factor which is overlooked by many. The theme of this year’s World Health Day was to alert people to the risks and also changes that can be made to prevent high blood pressure.

Risks increase with age. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 3 adults has high blood pressure; 1 in 10 people in their 20s and 30s, and 5 in 10 people in their 50s are sufferers.

Studies by the British Medical Association suggest that decreasing salt and increasing potassium intake will reduce high blood pressure. The World Health Organization has therefore set a guideline recommending that adults should consume at least 4g of potassium per day.

Which foods?

A reduced salt intake and foods rich in potassium are especially recommended. Below are some examples of foods that lower blood pressure:

Bananas are a good source of potassium.

Bananas are a good source of potassium.

Be top banana! Bananas are packed with potassium which lower blood pressure and significantly reduces the risk of stroke. They work well added to to yoghurt as a quick morning energy booster and is an easy fruit to eat on the go that won’t leave your hands sticky.

Fish: It’s an oldie but a goodie and one that you’ve heard 10 times over. But fish such as tuna, halibut, cod and salmon are beneficial because of the omega-3 fatty acid content, which is proven to reduce inflammation and again, high blood pressure.

Green leafy vegetables: These include kale, and broccoli and are not just great at reducing high blood pressure, but also contain antioxidants, folate, magnesium and potassium which can all help prevent cancer and heart disease. Eat them raw or steamed to retain their full nutritional value.

Dark chocolate: It’s not only fish and vegetables that are good for you! Dark chocolate in moderation contains flavonoid which is known to affect the production of nitric acid in the body. This will relax the muscles and cause the blood vessels to dilate which lowers blood pressure.

Legumes: These include beans, peas and lentils which are all rich in protein, magnesium and potassium. They are especially good for diabetics as they lower blood glucose levels, heart rate and heart disease.

Low fat milk and yoghurt: Studies have shown that calcium keeps the muscles that line the blood vessels toned, which lowers blood pressure. Lactose products such as low fat yoghurts, milk and cheese provide high levels of calcium and vitamin D for metabolism.

Whole grains: Whole grains found in pasta, rice and cereal reduce high blood pressure with high potassium, magnesium and folate levels. You can easily switch your regular processed pasta and rice to the whole grain alternative.

Go nuts: Raw nuts are a great healthy snack that lower blood pressure, thanks again to potassium. They also contain protein, fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and vitamins.

Kiwis; the unknown and reasonably priced superfood.

Kiwis; the unknown and reasonably priced superfood.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, which has been proven to reduce high blood pressure and the risk of heart diseases. They also contain calcium, potassium, vitamins A, C and E.

Kiwis: Perhaps the best unrecognised superfood, making it an affordable health booster. It contains calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper and chromium, all of which regulate the heartbeat, provide energy and aid healthy skin and nails.