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If you want to eat a blood pressure lowering diet, you need to have blood pressure friendly foods to hand.
One of the hardest parts about eating healthily is making sure that you have the right foods to hand when you want to eat.
The best way to give yourself a headstart is to make sure that your kitchen is stocked with the right ingredients.
Every kitchen needs a fruitbowl
Fruit and vegetables should make up the largest part of your daily food intake. They are a vital part of any blood pressure diet and will help to lower blood pressure. Keeping a good supply of fresh fruit can help you to steer clear of cakes or biscuits, and will help you to eat the recommended 5 portions a day.
Fruits are low in calories, contain helpful fibre and are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Different fruits contain different nutrients and it is best to eat a range of fruits to get the most benefit. This will also help you to avoid becoming bored of eating the same fruits day after day.
What every kitchen cupboard needs
Wholegrain pasta, breakfast cereals and rice: eating more wholegrains that will help to reduce your risk of heart disease. Brown rice, wholewheat pasta and wholegrain cereals are good choices.
Nuts and seeds: these are a good source of minerals and fibre, but they can also be high in fat. A good rule of thumb is no more than handful or two a day. Avoid the roasted and salted types. (Any added salt will act to raise your blood pressure.)
Canned fish, fruit, vegetables and beans: canned products can be just as as good as fresh or frozen, but make sure to choose those that have been packed in fresh water or their own juice. Avoid foods that are packed in oil, brine or syrup, or have added salt or sugar. (Again both foods packed in brine or that have been salted will act to raise your blood pressure.)
What every fridge needs
Fresh vegetables: fresh vegetables (along with fruit) provide a powerful punch of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, including potassium which can help lower your blood pressure. As with fruit, eating a range of vegetables will give you different health benefits.
Dairy products: these can be a good source of calcium (which keeps bones strong), but they can also be high in saturated fat, and some cheeses can be very high in salt. The best choices are skimmed and semi-skimmed milk, low-fat yoghurt, goats’ milk and goats’ cheese or low-fat cheeses such as soft or cottage cheeses.
Fruit juice and smoothies: a 150ml glass fruit juice counts as one portion. Smoothies can increase your intake of fruit even further since they contain the whole of the fruit. Avoid “juice drinks” as these may only contain a small amount of fruit and may be high in added sugar.
Fresh or cooked meats: choosing oily fish (such as salmon, tuna or mackerel), chicken and lean meats (those with all the fat cut off) will make sure that your body is not taking in too much saturated fat. The healthy oils in fish will also help to make sure that there is a good balance of cholesterol in your blood. Avoid fatty cuts of meat, or prepared foods like scotch eggs or sausages, as these can be high in salt and saturated fat.
Eggs: eggs can be a useful source of protein and minerals when eaten in moderation.
Salad dressings: salads should be an important part of your diet, but if you are buying salad dressings, always check the label to see how much salt, sugar and fat they contain. (If they contain too much salt, they may undo all the blood pressure lowering work of the salad.) Better still, you can make your own simple salad dressings with olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice.
What every freezer needs
Frozen vegetables: Frozen vegetables can be just as good as fresh and work just as well at lowering your blood pressure. But choose varieties that have only been washed and picked – they should contain no extra salt. Vegetables with sauces are far more likely to contain added salt and saturated fat.
What a bread bin needs
Low-salt or no-salt bread: Bread is an important part of our diet because it is high in carbohydrates and fibre, low in fat and a good source of energy. Unfortunately, most manufactured bread you buy in bakers or supermarkets contains salt. Salt acts to raise your blood pressure.
The best choice is to make your own bread without salt. If you can't do this, then choose brown or wholemeal breads instead of white, and compare brands to see which have the lowest amount of salt.