Do you watch the mercury rising every time your doctor measures your blood pressure? Want to get a handle on the elevated numbers? Get your diet right. Read on to pick up tips on how to eat better every day and to lower your blood pressure.
Simple Steps to a Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension is a common condition that affects one in four adult Singaporeans. Many, many factors are known to contribute to the elevated numbers — age, family history, stress, diet, activity level and underlying diseases — are just a few.
When it comes to diet, there are simple steps that you can take to help lower your blood pressure. Check them out!
Eat Less Salt
Salt contains 40% sodium. Sodium is a mineral which is essential for the normal functioning of the body. However, eaten in excess, sodium raises blood pressure especially in individuals who are sodium-sensitive. Scientific studies have provided evidence that lowering sodium intake can be beneficial in reducing blood pressure.
We get sodium from:
- what is found naturally in food.
- what is added during the processing of food.
- what we add when cooking.
- what we add at the table.
Salt and sauces added in the preparation of food and at the table contribute to most of the sodium we consume daily. Canned and processed food also generally have a high content of sodium.
Here are ways to effectively reduce sodium intake:
Eating at Home
- Cook with less salt, sauces, stock cubes and seasoning powders as many of these flavourings contain a lot of sodium.
- Enhance the taste of food with natural herbs and spices like onion, ginger, garlic, chilli, parsley, spring onions, cinnamon and cloves.
- Avoid use of salted and preserved food such as ikan bilis, salted fish, salted eggs, luncheon meat, sausages and ham.
- Ask for your food to be prepared with less salt and sauces, where possible.
- Ask for the sauces to be served on the side. Taste food first, try not to add more salt or sauces to food at the table, if the food is already palatable.
- Avoid drinking up the soup stocks and sauces as they contain a lot of sodium.
- Buy fresh food as often as possible.
- Use the Nutrition Information Panel on food labels and select food products with less sodium. Products with the Healthier Choice Symbol contain less sodium than similar products in the same category.
Include a Well-balanced Diet
There is substantial scientific evidence that a well-balanced diet supports a lower sodium intake to help prevent hypertension and even lower blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure. It is likely that several components of the diet work together to bring down blood pressure levels.
So include wholegrain food such as brown rice, wholemeal bread, whole wheat biscuits and oats in your diet. Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables too. Fruit and vegetables are naturally rich in potassium, which counters the effect of sodium in the body and lowers blood pressure effectively. In addition, try incorporating low-fat dairy products as well as beans, nuts and seeds in your diet.
Eat poultry without skin and lean meat instead of the higher fat options, and include fish regularly too. If you do cook at home, cook with less oil. Steam, grill, bake, roast, boil or pan fry with less oil, to keep your dishes lower in fat.
Use the Nutrition Information Panel on food labels to select products that are lower in total fat, saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. A simple way to identify a healthier product within each food category is to select those with the Healthier Choice Symbol.
When you eat out, do a visual check and pick cooked food items that do not look greasy. Avoid oily, deep fried food and dishes with gravies that have oil floating on the surface.
There is evidence to show that consuming alcohol in large amounts and frequently increases blood pressure. So, if you do drink alcohol, then limit the amount you drink. Limit alcohol intake to no more than one standard drink per day if you are a woman and two standard drinks per day if you are a man. A standard drink is can (220 ml) of beer, 1 glass (100 ml) of wine or 1 nip (30 ml) of spirits.
Lose Weight, If Needed
One of the most effective ways to combat blood pressure is to lose some weight, if you are overweight. Even a modest reduction goes a long way to reduce blood pressure. Consume a diet that is lower in calories and engage in regular exercise to achieve a healthier weight.
Reduce your sodium intake by:
- Cooking with less salt and sauces.
- Asking for less sauce and gravy when eating out.
- Choosing fresh over processed food.
- Buying food products with the Healthier Choice Symbol.
- Eat a well-balanced diet which includes wholegrain food, vegetables and fruit. Limit your intake of fat, saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.
- If you drink alcohol, moderate how much you consume. For those who do not drink, do not start.
- Lose weight, if you are overweight.