Simple diet changes can make your life heart healthy during National Hypertension Education Month

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month and one of the main messages is to encourage people to eat well for your heart.

A diet high in fruits and vegetables can help you maintain a healthy weight, as well as reduce the risk for many of the leading causes of death, including heart disease. Although some people only eat fruits and vegetables, the CDC reports that in every state, not enough people are eating fruits and vegetables. Only about one in three adults meet the recommendations for fruit intake and about one in four get the recommended vegetables.

A diet high in fruits and vegetables is important for maintaining a healthy weight because they are high in fiber and water. It also reduces the risk of leading causes of death, such as heart disease, some cancers, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease and diabetes.

Some strategies to improve your diet include asking if a restaurant will not add salt and making sure to read your food labels. There is hidden sodium in many processed foods. Replacing salty processed foods with fruits and vegetables is helpful for adults and children. A healthy diet includes two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables each day. Eating right doesn’t mean giving up pizza and burgers but striking a balance is key.

Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium and also contain phytochemicals. There are over 10,000 known phytochemicals in the plant-based foods we eat. Phytochemical simply means plant-chemical and the color of your food indicates which one is present.

Blue and purple fruits and vegetables drive their color from anthocyanin. That acts as a powerful antioxidant to protect cells from damage. Many red and pink fruits and veggies are also rich in anthocyanins but the darker the blue or purple hue, the higher the phytochemical concentration.

Anthocyanins can also make blood vessels healthier, reverse short-term memory loss associated with aging, improve motor skills, and help prevent bacteria from sticking to cells (such as the lining of the urinary tract.) Some examples of blue and purple foods to look out for include blueberries, blackberries, eggplant, figs, juneberries, plums, prunes, purple grapes, raisins.

If you’d like more tips on how to lower your blood pressure, click here. You can also find more information on how to reduce sodium by searching the WIAT website with the keyword “sodium.”

One recipe to try: blueberry muffin smoothie adapted from the Iowa Girl Eats website. You can find the original recipe here.

SERVES 1

  • 1/2 cup milk (soy or almond may be used)
  • 4 – 6oz vanilla Greek yogurt (1 individual-sized container)
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2  banana
  • 1/4 cup raw, uncooked oats
  • 1/2 cup ice cube
  • Add ingredients to blender in the order listed above then blend until very smooth, about 2 minutes.

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