15/07/2024

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The #1 Lunch for High Blood Pressure, Recommended by Heart Experts

The #1 Lunch for High Blood Pressure, Recommended by Heart Experts

Have high blood pressure and need a healthy lunch option?

<p>PHOTOGRAPHER: FRED HARDY, FOOD STYLIST: MARGARET MONROE DICKEY</p>

PHOTOGRAPHER: FRED HARDY, FOOD STYLIST: MARGARET MONROE DICKEY

Reviewed by Dietitian Maria Laura Haddad-Garcia

Ominously dubbed the “silent killer” as it often has no obvious symptoms, high blood pressure or hypertension is an increasingly common medical condition. Nearly half of all American adults have high blood pressure or hypertension.

Over time, untreated hypertension can lead to heart disease and stroke, so it is important to get it under control. Luckily, diet and lifestyle changes can help. “Considerable evidence has shown that healthy food choices can extend longevity and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes,” says Estelle Jean, M.D., a cardiologist from MedStar Montgomery Medical Center in Olney, MD.

Unfortunately, our fast-paced lifestyles can make adopting a healthier eating pattern challenging. Skipping lunch may seem appealing to sneak in a few extra minutes of work, but it can “lead to excess hunger, which can lead to eating too much. Irregular eating patterns can negatively impact metabolism, which may lead to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure and obesity,” says Bradley Serwer, M.D., an interventional cardiologist and chief medical officer at VitalSolution.

Furthermore, a study found that those who routinely skipped lunch ate fewer fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seafood and plant-based proteins—the foods that can help manage your blood pressure. Luckily, choosing a heart-healthy lunch option doesn’t have to be complicated. In this article, we’ll share an expert-approved (and easy) lunch option that you can enjoy worry-free if you have high blood pressure.

Related: 30-Day No-Sugar, Anti-Inflammatory Meal Plan for High Blood Pressure, Created by a Dietitian

What to Look for in a Heart-Healthy Lunch

The ​​Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is considered one of the most effective eating patterns for managing high blood pressure. This diet includes fruits, vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans and nuts. On the other hand, it limits saturated fats (those found in red meat, butter, coconut oil and dairy), added sugars and sodium. So, to ensure a heart-healthy lunch, your best bet is to follow this diet’s guidelines.

Include a Variety of Different Vegetables

The DASH diet recommends between four and five servings of fruits and vegetables—so make room for them in your lunch plate. Produce provides a variety of beneficial nutrients for lowering blood pressure, such as fiber, vitamin C and potassium.

Speaking of potassium, “choosing a lunch that incorporates at least one colorful vegetable (such as tomatoes, carrots, beets or eggplant) and one dark leafy green (like kale, spinach, or arugula) can help ensure you get the necessary potassium to maintain optimal blood pressure levels.” says Catalina Ruz M.S., RDN, from Top Nutrition Coaching. Potassium is critical for managing high blood pressure. This mineral helps relax your blood vessel walls, reducing the tension and lowering your blood pressure.

Reduce the Saturated Fat

While the DASH diet is low in saturated fat and trans fat, it isn’t fat-free. Instead, it encourages you to incorporate unsaturated fats like omega-3 fatty acids and those found in nuts, seeds and vegetable oils like olive, avocado and sesame. Choosing plant-based proteins (tofu, beans and legumes) more often can be a great way to keep saturated fat in check. What’s more, a study found that those who got their protein from a greater variety of sources had better blood pressure.

Pack It with Flavor but Not with Sodium

If you are short on time and routinely find yourself ordering lunch or grabbing something from the vending machine, you’re likely overshooting the daily sodium recommendation. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your sodium intake to 2300 mg sodium (but ideally 1500 mg) per day for better blood pressure. Packing a lunch from home can go a long way to reduce your sodium intake. The majority of the sodium in people’s diets comes from restaurants or packaged foods rather than the salt shaker.

The Best Lunch for High Blood Pressure

Our pick for the best lunch for high blood pressure is a Vegan Superfood Grain Bowl. This grain bowl is made with a base of fiber-rich quinoa, which is topped with baby kale, beets, avocado, edamame, sunflower seeds and a simple dressing made from hummus and lemon juice. Thanks to a few convenience-food shortcuts, like precooked beets and pre-washed kale, you can whip up this delicious grain bowl in just 15 minutes.

“This meal ticks several boxes for heart health,” says Veronica Rouse, RD, owner of The Heart Dietitian in Ontario, Canada. “A well-crafted heart-healthy lunch should ideally include a good mix of whole grains, plant-based proteins, healthy fats and an abundance of fruits and vegetables. These components work together to provide a range of nutrients that support heart health”.

Packed with Potassium

Potassium and sodium work in tandem to regulate blood pressure levels. Sodium elevates blood pressure by encouraging fluid retention, while potassium counteracts this by promoting sodium elimination through urine and relaxing blood vessel walls.

Most Americans consume too much sodium and too little potassium; this imbalance translates to an increased risk of high blood pressure. “Avocados, hummus and edamame are all good sources of potassium—a key nutrient recommended by the DASH diet,” says Rouse. This combination of potassium-rich foods is why just one of these grain bowls packs a whopping 23% of your daily needs for potassium.

Rich in Fiber

Most people don’t get enough fiber in their diets. In fact, more than 90% of Americans don’t get the recommended 22-34 grams of fiber. However, we know that fiber provides a variety of health benefits. “High-fiber diets may protect against coronary artery disease by lowering blood pressure and improving cholesterol,” says Jean.

Research has shown that people with hypertension who eat higher-fiber diets may have lower blood pressure readings than those eating low-fiber diets. If you want to hit the mark for fiber for the day, this grain bowl will get you almost halfway there since it provides 13 grams of fiber per serving.

May Promote Blood Vessel Health

Like trying to force water through a narrow tube, blood pressure increases when your blood vessels lose their flexibility with age or become narrow due to plaque buildup (AKA atherosclerosis). Certain foods, like the beets in these grain bowls, can encourage your blood vessels to dilate, allowing blood to flow freely. “Nitric oxide, derived from beets, can enhance the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout your circulatory system, aiding in blood pressure regulation and overall circulation. Research studies have shown that consuming beets or beet juice can effectively lower blood pressure in individuals with hypertension,” says Ruz.

Other Tips to Manage Your Condition

  • Manage Your Stress: Your body’s natural response to stress is to release “flight or fight” hormones, making your heart beat faster and constrict your blood vessels, which increases your blood pressure. Mindfulness, deep breathing and practicing gratitude can help you manage your stress levels.

  • Get Active: Almost every professional health organization recommends that you fit in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise at least three days a week as it offers many health benefits—including lower blood pressure. Research has found that regular exercise may translate to a 5 mmHg reduction in blood pressure.

  • Limit Alcohol: Compared to those who never drink, people who sip on more than two alcoholic beverages per day may increase their risk of having high blood pressure by 51% and 42%. That doesn’t mean you have to give up alcohol completely—just limit it to the daily recommendations: one drink for women and two for men.

The Bottom Line

If you are one of many Americans with high blood pressure, finding a lunch option that is low effort, tastes good and meets the mark for a heart-healthy diet may feel challenging. But it doesn’t have to. This vegan superfood grain bow is packed with heart-supportive minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium while also low in saturated fat and sodium. You’ll be well on your way to meeting your fiber goals for the day when having this bowl for lunch since it provides 13 grams of fiber.

Related: 11 15-Minute, High-Fiber Lunches for High Blood Pressure

Read the original article on Eating Well.