By Cheshire Que, RND, RN, RD
For as long as I can remember, high blood pressure or hypertension has been the most common problem each household has. Grandparents and parents have been watching their blood pressure by trying to cut down on their salt intake, losing weight, watching what they eat, and increasing physical activity. One of my earliest memories was watching my mother take my grandparents’ blood pressure every night. It became a norm for me. Accepting that hypertension is simply a part of aging. But what if we can do something to prevent or manage it? Will you do it?
Hypertension may be caused by non-modifiable factors such as age, race, and genetics but it can also be triggered by modifiable factors: being sedentary, overweight and obese; smoking, too much alcohol consumption; and stress. Certain health conditions like diabetes, hyperthyroidism, kidney diseases, and sleep apnea can lead to complications that increase the blood pressure.
While we may not be able to control all factors that cause hypertension, we can however take charge of what we put into our body which greatly impacts blood pressure—sodium. A teaspoon of salt has 2300mg of sodium which is the maximum daily recommended sodium intake by the American Heart Association. For most adults, AHA recommends only 1500mg of sodium intake a day.
Excess sodium causes water retention in the body. This condition increases the workload of the heart and blood vessels, not to mention the kidneys as well. Water retention leads to a rise in blood pressure.
Sodium is not totally useless or bad. After all, it is an electrolyte and helps keep our hydration status in equilibrium. It is the consumption of excessive sodium that is detrimental to our health.
You can use salt sparingly to add flavor while cooking but always consider that sodium does not only come from table salt. There is inherent sodium present in foods that are invisible to the naked eye. Think chips, processed or cured meats, instant noodles, pizza, breads, canned soups, broths, condiments, and the like. What you want to do is obtain balance in your diet. Learn how to read nutrition labels.
Skip the salt shaker on the dinner table, as well as soy sauce, fish sauce, and high sodium condiments. Explore flavors from herbs and spices. You will eventually get used to less salt and enjoy other flavors. Your taste buds will adapt to it.
Have you ever wondered what you should eat to assuage your guilt feelings after devouring a tasty, salty bag of chips? Potassium rich foods will save your day! This electrolyte and mineral balances the amount of sodium in the body. It also prevents you from feeling bloated.
To increase your potassium intake, incorporate these foods into your daily diet: cauliflower, celery, mushroom, malunggay, squash, calamansi, langka, leafy vegetables, orange, banana, melon, guyabano, santol, lanzones, strawberry, avocado, coconut, oatmeal, cashew, and prunes.