Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a common condition that is difficult to spot but can be life threatening if not properly managed. Affecting one in four adults in Singapore, high blood pressure may lead to complications such as heart diseases, stroke or kidney failure.
Hypertension is defined as having sustained a blood pressure of 140/90mmHg or above, with the ideal blood pressure for a physically healthy person being around 120/80mmHg.While symptoms are hard to detect, it can be prevented and controlled with a diet rich in potassium, magnesium, fiber and one that is lower in sodium. In this article, we speak to our Principal Dietitian Mah Wai Yi to find out more about how we can manage hypertension with our diet.
Vegetables, especially the leafy green ones, are high in potassium, a mineral that can help regulate fluid balance in our body and control the electrical activity of the heart and muscles. Potassium can also help us get rid of more sodium through our urine, lowering our blood pressure in all. Vegetables are also high in fibre and magnesium that can help to improve blood pressure. Include a variety of vegetables in your diet as different coloured vegetables offer different nutrients.
Like vegetables, fruit is a rich source of potassium, magnesium and fibre. Health Promotion Board recommends a minimum of 2 servings of fruit. One serving of fruit is equivalent to one small fruit, 1 medium banana, 10 grapes or ¼ cup of dried fruits.
Have a piece of fruit after your meal or as a snack, or include a handful of grapes with your morning cereal.
#3 Whole grains
Whole grains are another great source of potassium, magnesium and fibre. Taking more whole grains will help to reduce blood pressure. Choose wholegrain versions of your regular foods: wholegrain pasta and rice, wholegrain bread, wholegrain or high fibre breakfast cereal like rolled oats or bran cereal.
#4 Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds provide healthy unsaturated fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals that works together to reduce blood pressure. Include a handful of unsalted nuts and seeds every day either with your meal or as a snack.
Making the DASH to Fight Hypertension
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is an eating plan that has been scientifically proven to help manage blood pressure.
The DASH diet plan emphasizes on a lower fat, balanced diet that include vegetables, fruits and lower fat foods. It also limits food high in sodium, sweets, sugary beverages and red meats. Here are some simple pointers to help you get your DASH diet in check:
- Cook with less salt, sauces, stock cubes and seasoning powders as many of these flavourings contain a lot of sodium. Use herbs and spices to flavor food instead. For example: lemon juice, ginger, garlic, fresh chilli, parsley, spring onions, etc.
- Ask for your food to be prepared with less salt and sauces, where possible.
- Check 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.
- Select healthier cooking methods such as steaming, boiling, baking and grilling instead of deep-frying.
- Choose lower-fat foods, such as low-fat milk and fat-free yogurt, lean meats or poultry without skin.
- Reduce intake of sugary drinks and choose water, unsweetened drinks or diet drinks instead.
- Have fruit for desserts or choose lower sugar desserts such as yogurts with fresh fruits, bean curd with less sugar syrup, reduced sugar red bean soup, etc.
Remember: What we eat affects our chances of getting high blood pressure. By following a healthy eating plan, we reduce the risk of developing hypertension and a chance to lower blood pressure that is already too high.