Hypertension? Hyposalinate.

Good evening and welcome to Mondays are Meatless, Cycle Three, Week Ten. We just cracked 2000 page views this week, which is amazing. This will be my thirtieth weekly message and including today's recipe, it's been about thirty of those, also. In keeping with my tradition of taking a week off after every ten straight weeks, next weekend will consist of a rerun of past recipes. Perhaps it will be a time to look back at past favourites on the blog that you'd like to try again. As it happens, I will be out of town all weekend at a family get together in Ann Arbor, Michigan, so the coming week off will be excellent timing.

Just a quick update on last week's bad bacterial news: there have now been 33 deaths confirmed, over 3000 sickened and 800 with kidney damage. And the story is not over. Some pundits here in North America have theorized that such an outbreak is highly probably here, also. Some have clamored for warning labels on sprouts. Whereas Mark Bittman from the New York Times implores us not to blame the poor sprouts. It's a complex issue which bears close scrutiny, improved regulation (including an immediate ban on the prophylactic use of antibiotics) and much further thought.

My title today refers to hypertension, or high blood pressure, which is really on the rise. Between 1996 and 2006, it increased by 20% in the U.S. and what is particularly frightening is that 19% of young adults (between 24 and 32) now have hypertension without knowing it. This translates into 1 in 5 adults overall (it is the same statistic in Canada) with high blood pressure which leads to an increased risk of death by heart attack and stroke, as well as kidney disease, stomach cancer, dementia, osteoporosis, hardening of the arteries, arrythmia, blindness and enlargement of the heart. It is a nasty piece of work. 

And get ready for this... according to the September 2010 "Nutrition Action" newsletter, in those over 65 years old, it afflicts 1 in 2 people. One third of those don't have it under control and half that third don't even know they have it. The biggest single factor in hypertension, the one that everyone knows, is too much salt in our diets. The issue highlighted above also points to some new research which indicates that getting enough potassium in our diets helps lower blood pressure. Some great, low-calorie sources of potassium include: beet greens, swiss chard, acorn squash, sweet potato, lima beans, edamame, spinach, tomato sauce and cantaloupe. In other great news, dark chocolate has also been found to combat high blood pressure, among other health benefits.

So Dr. Fuhrman's bottom line, best steps to take to avoid hypertension, as provided on the Disease-Proof blog link above, which I will paraphrase for you here, are:
  • Avoid salt
  • Avoid added sugar
  • Minimize caffeine and alcohol
  • Focus on plant protein rather than animal protein (which you are doing--at least one day a week)
  • Eat plenty of whole plant foods, especially fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise regularly
This week's recipe follows all these recommendations, as well as being made up of all potassium-rich foods (except mushrooms, which I just happen to like a lot). If you dance around the kitchen while you're making it and have a few squares of dark chocolate for dessert, you will be well on your way to a healthy blood pressure. Bon appetit!