Have a Plant: Fruits & Veggies for Better Health

Did you know that May is blood pressure awareness month? Remember, what you eat affects your chances of having high blood pressure (hypertension). Take charge of your health by eating a heart-healthy diet, including reducing sodium intake.

Studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) prove that blood pressure can be lowered by following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. The DASH diet is an eating plan that is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat but is rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, protein and fiber. It includes whole grain products, fish, poultry and nuts. Most importantly, it emphasizes fruits and vegetables as well as low-fat or non-fat dairy products

There are many benefits of having a diet that is rich in fruits and veggies – not only can they help lower blood pressure, but they reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.

All fruit is helpful in controlling blood pressure. Here are a few …

  • Prunes — a cupful of prunes contains 316 mg of potassium and only 1.7 mg of sodium. Potassium is essential to maintain normal blood pressure and cardiac function. It also aids in preventing arthrosclerosis (clotting of blood in the blood vessels).
  • Melons — a rich source of potassium and magnesium. The carotenoids (powerful antioxidants) present in melons prevent the hardening and narrowing of the walls of arteries and veins.
  • Bananas — a potassium-rich super food! One medium banana contains approximately 1.0 mg of sodium and 422 mg of potassium, making it one of the most powerful fruits against high blood pressure.
  • Citrus Fruits — full of vitamin C and carotenoids. Oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, lemons and limes all belong to the citrus family.

Make the most out of veggies, choose fresh or frozen with no added sauces; instead squeeze lemon juice or add garlic powder for extra zing! Veggies are delicious eaten raw, grilled or steamed.

All vegetables help control blood pressure. Check these out …

  • Carrots — high in beta-carotene (a carotenoid) and potassium, and help to maintain and regulate normal blood pressure, as well as reduce the risk of heart disease. Carrots are delicious eaten raw, or can even be juiced with herbs such as mint or parsley.
  • Tomatoes — a good source of potassium, vitamins A and C. Lycopene, a carotenoid found in tomatoes, has been shown to play a role in the prevention of heart disease.
  • Leafy Greens — rich in minerals and vitamins, especially vitamin K. Leafy greens such as spinach, lettuce and kale are low in calories but high in nutrients and make the perfect addition to any meal.

Recipe

Kale with Apples & Mustard
Servings: 4 (3/4cup)
Preparation Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds kale, ribs removed, coarsely chopped (see Tip)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Preparation

  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add kale and cook, tossing with two large spoons, until bright green, about 1 minute. Add water, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Stir in apples; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is tender, 8 to 10 minutes more.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk vinegar, mustard, brown sugar and salt in a small bowl. Add the mixture to the kale, increase heat to high and boil, uncovered, until most of the liquid evaporates, 3 to 4 minutes.

Nutrition Facts: 107 Calories; 4 g Fat; 1 g Sat; 3 g Mono; 0 mg Cholesterol; 18 g Carbohydrates; 2 g Protein; 3 g Fiber; 134 mg Sodium; 399 mg Potassium

Tip: A 1- to 1 1/2-pound bunch of kale yields 16 to 24 cups of chopped leaves. When preparing kale for this recipe, remove the tough ribs, chop or tear the kale as directed, then wash it—allowing some water to cling to the leaves. The moisture helps steam the kale during the first stages of cooking.

Source: EatingWell: October/November 2005, EatingWell for a Healthy Heart Cookbook

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