Half of all American women over the age of 45 have high blood pressure. Considering that high blood pressure is a treacherous and silent killer that wreaks havoc on arteries, predisposing us to stroke, a heart attack, kidney failure and blindness, it would behoove all of us to get those millimeters of mercury down to a safe level. (Medical authorities define a healthy normal blood pressure as less than 120/80 mm mercury.) Dr. Janet Brill’s book, Blood Pressure Down: The 10-Step Plan to Lower Your Blood Pressure in 4 Weeks—Without Prescription Drugs, has all the information you need to do just that, including meal plans and more than 50 recipes that harness blood-pressure-lowering foods. Here, she explains how two of those foods — bananas and chocolate — work to keep your blood pressure in check. —BBL Editor
Most people know that cutting down on sodium intake is a powerful dietary step one can take to lower blood pressure. But did you also know that there are also a number of healthy (and delicious) foods that lower blood pressure? It’s time to shift our attention to ingesting much, much more of Mother Nature’s most powerful blood pressure mineral medicine. Lucky for us, foods like bananas and dark chocolate are on the list.
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Bananas are the most popular fruit in the United States. They are a delicious, portable and relatively inexpensive fruit filled with fiber as well as many vitamins and minerals. Bananas are Mother Nature’s sweet blood-pressure-lowering medicine because of their potassium content — one banana packs at least 450 mg! Potassium is an essential nutrient that lowers blood pressure by balancing out the harmful effects of sodium. It works as a natural diuretic: The more potassium you eat, the more sodium and water you excrete in the urine. Scientists think that potassium also actively relaxes the blood vessels.
Abundant scientific evidence has proven that a shortage of potassium in the diet plays a critical role in elevating blood pressure. Indeed, restricting potassium intake has been proven to cause a substantial rise in blood pressure — even in people with normal blood pressure. A low potassium intake also ups your odds of suffering a stroke. To lower your blood pressure through dietary means, aim for a sodium intake of under 1,500 mg/day in combination with a potassium intake of 4,700 mg. Eating just two bananas a day will help you to reach your daily 4,700 mg potassium goal.
Chocolate lovers, rejoice! Believe it or not, this forbidden fruit is actually a magical blood-pressure-lowering medication. What’s the ingredient in dark chocolate that confers so many blood vessel benefits? “Polyphenols” is the term used to describe a major class of bioactive phytochemicals scientifically proven to protect against heart and vascular disease. Flavonoids are a subclass of polyphenols (flavonoids account for about two-thirds of our polyphenol intake). Indeed, flavonoids are those plentiful and super-heart-healthy plant chemicals found in high concentration in fruits, vegetables and, you guessed it, dark chocolate! And cocoa contains lots of flavonoids. In fact, dark chocolate has such a highly concentrated amount of flavonoids that it beats out red wine.
No need for deprivation when caring for your arteries! Although medication is highly effective at bringing your numbers down, what you eat can also have a dramatic blood-pressure-lowering effect. Remember, it’s all in the balance (of sodium and potassium). Aim for slashing the salt as well as packing your plate with potassium-rich foods such as melon, avocado, cooked spinach, white beans, bananas and dark chocolate, and you will be taking a huge step in keeping your blood pressure numbers where they need to be.
Jason’s Chocolate-Banana Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 large ripe banana, mashed (1/2 cup)
3/4 cup soy milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1 egg white
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an 11 x 7-inch brownie pan with nonstick spray. Whisk together flour, sugar blend, cocoa, and baking soda in large bowl. In another bowl whisk together the bananas, soy milk, oil, egg, egg white, lemon juice and vanilla. Make a hole in the middle of the flour mixture and pour on the soy milk mixture and chocolate chips. With a wooden spoon stir the ingredients together until blender. Spoon batter into pan. Bake about 25 minutes until the center of the cakes springs back when pressed lightly with fingertips.
Nutrition per Serving:
Calories: 150 kcal
Sodium: 52 mg
Potassium: 119 mg
Magnesium: 19 mg
Calcium: 23 mg
Fat: 4 g (EPA 0g, DHA 0g, ALA 0g)
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 12 mg
Carbohydrate: 27 g
Dietary fiber: 1 g
Sugars: 9 g
Protein: 3 g
For more information about Dr. Janet Brill, visit drjanet.com.
Recipe from the book Blood Pressure DOWN by Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D.N, LDN, © 2013 Janet Brill, Ph.D. Published by Harmony Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.
Illustrator: Marie Guillard