Smorgasbord Health 2017- Top to Toe Your heart is only as good as the food you eat!


Smorgasbord Health 2017

I appreciate that many of you who have been kindly following the blog for a long time will have seen this post before. However, if you are new to Smorgasbord, I hope you will find interesting.

In the series Top to Toe I will be covering the major organs in the body and their health.

Healthy Eating for the Heart.

The aim of this eating plan is to help maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of diabetes, atherosclerosis and high blood pressure all of which are contributory factors to heart disease. Ideally you will combine this plan with an exercise programme to maximise the benefits and you will find some links in the weight loss programme at the start of the year. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/weight-loss-reduction-2017/

Firstly, it is more than likely that you already know that certain lifestyle choices you have made may be contributing to heart disease. If you are a smoker you are at a higher risk of developing arterial disease and a heart attack. If you eat too many junk foods, high in saturated fats and sugars, you are risking high cholesterol and probably diabetes. If you drink excessive amounts of alcohol then you are again taking chances with your heart health.

The good news is that eating a healthy heart programme need not be boring. In fact it will mean that you get to spend more time in the kitchen experimenting with all the wonderful alternatives to fats and sugars that are available everywhere. You need not compromise on taste and after a few weeks you will wonder how you managed to eat food that was so fatty, salty and sweet.

The aim is to eat all natural, unprocessed foods that have been touched by no other human hands than the one who picked it, packed it and yours.

I am going to give you a list of foods that have a specific role in preventing artery damage and heart disease. In that list are some foods that are high in potassium, along with the minerals Calcium and Magnesium. Potassium is a mineral that is essential for heart health and calcium and magnesium are essential to balance the potassium in the body.

You should be careful of supplementing with potassium if you are on heart or blood pressure medications but eating fruits and vegetables that contain this mineral in moderation once or twice a week should not be a problem. It is also important to balance their intake with calcium and magnesium rich foods and I note those in the list.

It depends on the medication so always check with your doctor or a qualified nutritionist.

The foods to EXCLUDE in your healthy heart diet

It is easier to detail the foods that you should not include in your healthy heart eating plan as you can eat everything that is natural and unprocessed limiting any other foods to a maximum of 20% of your daily diet. Notice that I say avoid – this does not mean cut out all together as that is impractical – but there is a huge difference between having two biscuits each time you have a cup of tea and having two once or twice a week. Ice cream is delicious and having once a week is not going to be the cause of a heart attack – but it will be if you have every day in combination with bacon, ready meals, cakes, sausages, processed sauces, biscuits etc.

These contain extremely high levels of salt and phosphorus, as well as harmful additives and colorants.

White packaged breads tend to have a great many additives, cheap brown bread that comes wrapped in plastic has probably been treated to a caramel colour rinse as well as having a white flour base. In house bakery whole grain bread is about the best option if you do not want to spend the time making yourself.

Although some margarine may be low fat they contain hydrogenated fats and additives and it is better for your health to have a little butter on your bread and potatoes.

Do not drink fizzy or condensed fruit drinks as they have extremely high levels of sugar and colorants. Also Aspartame is still raising its ugly head despite manufacturers wishing it into the healthy column. There have been some comments from people that they have it on good authority that it is harmless and that it is just hype. My philosophy is to follow the money. There is no financial gain to be made with the argument that artificial sweeteners including Aspartame are harmful to our health. But there is a great deal of money at stake for those who use it across the board in their products.

Moderate your intake of alcohol to no more than two average size glasses of wine per night or one spirit. Better to restrict to a couple of glasses when you are out for a meal at the weekend.

Take a close look at the labels on any mineral water that you drink and ensure that the sodium levels are below 1.0.

Foods that help your heart stay healthy

I am a firm believer in eating foods that are packed with nutrients. If you need to lose weight you need to eat less calories, but that should not be at the expense of nutrition. I have already introduced you to several of these foods in previous blogs. The following ones in particular contribute to a healthy heart and help prevent high blood pressure and elevated and oxidised LDL cholesterol levels. Combined with lean proteins such as eggs, fish including some oily fish and poultry, these foods will help maintain your healthy heart.

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Brown Rice Pilaf packed with heart healthy ingredients.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/01/20/smorgasbord-health-multivitamin-supplement-or-brown-rice-pilaf/

  • All vegetables and fruits are rich in antioxidants, which remove free radicals from the system and also promote the growth of healthy cells and tissue. They can all be eaten freely on your healthy heart diet, but here are some in particular that are very beneficial.
  • Avocados with their healthy fat that actively helps to reduce cholesterol. They also contain potassium.
  • Dried apricots are high in potassium and fibre.
  • Banana has fibre too, which helps clear the system of debris and keeps the arteries clean. Also it contains potassium so important for a healthy heart provided you are not on a potassium restricted diet. Don’t forget to include calcium and magnesium rich foods that help balance the potassium.
  • Beans for fibre to keep arteries clear, potassium, low fat protein and magnesium.
  • Broccoli contains calcium and magnesium to help balance the potassium in your blood stream
  • Brown rice helps keep your cholesterol down and your arteries healthy with its fibre.
  • Brussel sprouts for their antioxidants and potassium
  • Figs for their alkaline effect on the body and potassium levels.
  • Green tea with its antioxidants, which inhibit the enzymes that produce free radicals in the lining of the arteries. This not only prevents plaque from forming but also improves the ratio of LDL (lousy cholesterol) to HDL (healthy cholesterol)
  • Kiwi fruit for Vitamin C and potassium
  • Oranges with their fibre to help keep arteries clear and their Vitamin C which prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Oranges are also high in potassium.
  • Oats with their fibre called beta-glucan which helps lower cholesterol and prevents plaque from forming in your arteries.
  • Olive oil for essential fatty acids.
  • Onions in particular which contain sulphur compounds that along with B6 and chromium help lower homocysteine levels in the blood- homocysteine causes platelets to clump so that they can attach themselves to the walls of the arteries and block them. One of the major causes of high blood pressure.
  • Pears for fibre and potassium
  • Potatoes for kukoamines to reduce blood pressure and fibre.
  • Prunes and prune juice for antioxidants, potassium and fibre.
  • Raisins for potassium.
  • Salmon, halibut, sardines and scallops high in Omega 3 and B6 – has the same effect as walnuts. Also contain calcium and magnesium.
  • Skimmed (semi) milk and low fat yoghurt for calcium, potassium, low fat protein and its possible ability to reduce blood pressure.
  • Spinach for many nutrients but also potassium and calcium.
  • Shitake mushrooms that have so many therapeutic benefits apart from their definite effect on heart health
  • Tomatoes for antioxidants and potassium
  • Tofu as a vegetarian option for low fat protein, calcium and magnesium.
  • Walnuts, most unsalted nuts and seeds with their monounsaturated fat which lowers lipoprotein in the blood. Remember, Lipoprotein causes platelets to clot which in turn can lead to strokes or a cerebral aneurysm. Walnuts also contain B6, which is very important for a healthy cardiovascular system in general.
  • Wholegrains in the form of unprocessed, fresh baked bread and natural cereals, without additives, to provide B vitamins, fibre and magnesium.

As always if you are on prescribed medication check the fine print but it is also important to do your research. Sodium and potassium are very important for the body and you should not or must exclude completely.

Our bodies are designed to extract the nutrients that they need from natural food we consume. It is the additional and hidden levels in industrial foods that are the problem.

Eating a ‘cook from scratch’ diet which is richly varied is the best approach to a healthy heart.

©sallycronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2017

Please feel free to share and as always welcome your feedback.  thanks Sally

 

Medicine Woman’s Larder – Potatoes – Versatile and Nutritious.


Medicine Womans larder

Time to showcase some of my favourite foods that I consider should be part of everyone’s diet again. Delicious, nutritious and easy for the body to process to provide energy and life-sustaining vitamins and minerals.  This week a reminder of why potatoes are so good for us.

I firmly believe that with a healthy, unprocessed diet you can support most of the systems in your body.  There are occasions, particularly as we get older, that supplementing the foods that we eat is probably beneficial.  Also today there is concern that many of the natural foods that we do eat may not be as nutritious as they were 20 years ago.  The soil that they are grown in has to be rich in nutrients first to pass them on.  This is why when buying your fresh produce you should not skimp – buying from farm shops for example enables you to see the produce straight from the ground.  There are organic suppliers who have certification for their growing methods and soils.  Just remember that this body of ours needs to last a lifetime and if you are willing to spend a great deal of money on keeping your car safely on the road with fuel and maintenance, you should be at least willing to spend as much or more on keeping your engine in high performance mode.

NOTE If you are on any prescribed medication do not take yourself off it without consultation with your doctor.  If you follow a healthy eating programme and lose weight and are exercising you may not need the same dose and with your doctor’s agreement you may be able to reduce or come off the medication all together.

Most of us walk through the fresh produce departments of our supermarkets without really paying much attention to the individual fruits and vegetables. This is a great pity because the vast majority of these foods have been cultivated for thousands of years, not only for their nutritional value but also for their medicinal properties. If you eat a healthy diet you are effectively practicing preventative medicine and I would like to introduce you to a common vegetable that is definitely on my shopping list.

potatoesThe not so common Potato

You cannot claim Irish ancestry and not be aware of the significance of the potato in our history. For my great-grandfather, as a child in Cork, in the 1830s, the potato would have been an essential and daily addition to his diet.  By 1845 by the start of the great famine in Ireland caused by the potato blight, over a third of Irish people were reliant on this humble vegetable to sustain their families.  My family were lucky in as much as they were close to the sea and had access to other foods but for millions inland it was the most devastating disaster in Irish history.  Apart from those that perished, it instigated a mass migration that was to impact countries around the world.  So why should the potato be considered so nutritionally important to us today?

Potatoes were the most common carbohydrate for most of us in the western world up until after the second world war.  Another ten years and we were starting to develop more exotic tastes and first the Indian restaurants and then the Chinese introduced us to rice in its various varieties. And, over the last 50 years or so they have been chucked in and out of our diet at the whim of “experts” who one minute want us to stop eating carbohydrates, then they are in, then they are out………….

In my mind they should definitely be in and I hope that when you have read all the history of this simple but essential vegetable and all that it offers you too will include in your weekly shop.

The history of the potato.

There are some legends regarding the introduction of the potato into Ireland, around 1600. Some believe that Sir Frances Drake brought specimens back from the West Indies and handed some over to Sir Walter Raleigh who cultivated them on his farm in Ireland. I prefer the far more quirky explanation that potatoes were washed up on the shore after the Armada was sunk and – with typical Irish ingenuity – were transformed into a national treasure and alcoholic beverage.

This humble root vegetable has travelled thousands of miles to adorn our dinner plates and there is archaeological evidence that they were first cultivated in Peru around 4,500 years ago although wild potatoes had been eaten as early as 10,000 years ago.  I would imagine that ancient civilisations would have also eaten them in one form or another.

Wheat and corn could not survive the cold of the mountains in the same way as the potato, and the Inca cultures actually developed frost-resistant varieties and a technique to freeze dry the mature root, providing flour that could be stored for a number of years. Like in Ireland, the potato became the staple food for South American’s living at high altitudes and they even produced alcohol in the form of a beer called chicha.

As I mentioned, in recent years carbohydrates have found disfavour with the diet industry and unfortunately this includes the potato. In fact the potato  has far fewer calories than rice, pasta and bread; provided it is not laden with cheese and butter. It is a highly nutritious, low fat and healthy accompaniment to any meal.

There are over 100 different types of cultivated potatoes available today, and some of the more familiar to us are the King Edward, Maris Piper, Kerr Pink and Rooster varieties. Some older varieties were reflective of the time they were cultivated, such as Irish Peace.

What Are The Health Benefits Of The Potato?

There is a very good reason why the potato has been regarded as a staple food in so many cultures. When conditions are tough, and nothing else will grow, the potato will thrive and provide many essential nutrients the body needs to survive.

Provided you do not eat a pound of saturated fat with your potatoes (a bit of real butter however is delicious!), including them as part of your diet may prevent a number of potentially serious illnesses. Research into elevated cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, poor immune system function, cancer and hormonal imbalance show that the properties in the potato could well help prevent these conditions from developing in the first place. If you need to lose weight, eating potatoes will provide you with a great many nutrients and energy without adding excess calories or fats to your daily diet.

Despite being around for thousands of years this vegetable still holds surprises and recently scientists have isolated kukoamines in potatoes. Previously, these were only found in some Chinese herbal remedies. The main property of this chemical is its ability to reduce blood pressure levels. As elevated blood pressure is becoming increasingly more common, for both men and women, eating potatoes regularly in the diet could be very beneficial.

Potatoes are also high in Vitamin C, B6, Copper, Potassium, manganese and fibre. They also contain phytonutrients called flavonoids and carotenoids that are extremely important anti-oxidants.

Most of us are familiar with the health benefits of Vitamin C especially in relation to our immune system, but this vitamin also protects the harmful cholesterol LDL from oxidative damage, which leads to plaque forming and blocking our arteries.

Vitamin B6 is involved in nearly every major process in the body and is necessary for the health of each cell in our bodies. It also assists in the formation of several neurotransmitters in the brain and helps regulate our mood.

High levels of homocysteine have been linked to heart disease, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease and B6 has been shown to lower homocysteine levels in the blood.

B6 is necessary for the formation of haemoglobin, which is the oxygen carrying pigment in our blood, and is therefore linked to our energy levels. B6 also helps balance female hormones so eating potatoes regularly as part of a balanced diet is useful for PMS and other hormonal imbalances.

Copper is an essential trace element needed to absorb and utilise iron. It is needed to make ATP, which is the fuel that we run on, and some hormones and blood cells.

Potassium reacts with sodium and chloride to maintain a perfect working environment in and around each cell; it allows the transmission of nerve impulses and helps maintain correct fluid balance in the body. Without the correct amount of potassium our heartbeats can become irregular.

Manganese is needed for healthy skin, bone and cartilage formation as well as ensuring glucose tolerance. It is also part of our antioxidant defence system.

It is important that you eat the skin of the potato as this contains a concentrated source of fibre, which our bodies need to remove waste and toxins efficiently. If you buy pre-washed potatoes, remember to clean them before eating as the potato will have become susceptible to fungus and bacterial contamination. Scrub the potato under running water and remove any eyes or bruises before cooking. You can boil, bake, dry roast, mash and dice potatoes. If you want to mash or roast with a little fat, use olive oil and herbs rather than butter or margarine.

Next time you pass the display of potatoes in a supermarket don’t think “fattening”, think “mashed with a little olive oil and garlic” or “roasted with rosemary and Mediterranean vegetables with a little lamb on the side”!

Next Thursday.. Carrots.. in glorious technicolour… and something to put in your hat!

©sallycronin Just Food For Health 2007

 

The Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest – Artichoke Extract and as a food.


cropped 2

I used to find it very daunting when invited to dinner with friends to discover a wonderfully fresh and fragrant artichoke heart on a plate in front of me. It is one of those more fiddly  foods to eat and certainly it is a job for your fingers rather than your knife and fork. As a vegetable the artichoke is very nutritious and has been used since at least Roman times as a digestive aid. It was not however, until the 16th century that the therapeutic benefits for the liver and in particular jaundice were fully appreciated.

As doctors became more intrigued with the older herbal remedies they began to experiment with the bulb of the artichoke and other parts of plant that had not been eaten previously and used them to create extracts. The leaves of the artichoke were found to be particularly potent and they were prescribed for jaundice patients successfully. Since then the extract has been found to be effective for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels too.

It is understandable that today when we go to the doctor they are going to prescribe a pharmaceutical product rather than a bottle of herbal tincture… After all there are no patents available on plant medicine; you have to add a unique ingredient. However, most of our modern day medicines still use derivatives of plants for their manufacture and it is worth consulting a qualified herbalist to explore the original format as an option.

Artichoke is a phytopharmaceutical and has been the subject of quite extensive research with clinical effects being documented. It is recognised as an antioxidant that protects the liver, bile production and cholesterol lowering. It is entirely possible that the natural form of this plant may be just as or more effective than a synthesized product.

One of the main active components of the leaves has been identified as Cynarin and was the first to be extracted in the 1930s. It is only a trace element in the fresh leaves but undergoes significant changes as the leaves go through the drying and extraction process. The potency of the artichoke however, does not come from just one component and other elements such as chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant have been identified as being equally powerful.

The main use of the extract is to improve the digestive process and to enhance liver function and more recently as a natural way to lower high LDL cholesterol which is the more unhealthy type. Cholesterol has an important role to play in the body including hormone production and brain health but if our diet is unhealthy, the LDL or Low Density Lipoprotein becomes oxidised (usually from a high sugar diet) and its smaller particles attach to the walls of the arteries and form clumps that block blood flow. The dual effect of the artichoke extract is to not only act as an antioxidant preventing the oxidation by free radicals in the first place, but also to lower the level of the LDL.

The Liver

Our liver is the largest waste organ inside our body and as such comes under enormous pressure if we have a poor diet. We as humans are built to deal with many toxins. In the early part of human evolution we ate a lot of foods that were contaminated or possibly toxic; our livers are very proficient in removing these dangerous additives as quickly as possible. The digestive system is designed so that the stomach acid dissolves the food and as you will know if you have ever suffered from food poisoning there is usually a very quick response to contaminated food!

However, some of the toxin might still get through as far as the liver and it needs to be excreted from the body as effectively as possible. This is where bile enters the formula. It is manufactured in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. You may be surprised to learn that the liver produces around about 2 pints of bile per day and this is secreted into the small intestine where it processes the fats we have consumed and ensures that fat soluble vitamins are absorbed effectively. Bile is also essential for detoxing the liver as it carries the toxins away into the intestine to be eliminated from the body.

There are a number of clinical studies ongoing into the benefits of artichoke extract and it will be interesting to see the results of these in coming years.

In a nutshell.

Artichoke extract can be used to stimulate bile flow from the liver which may help reduce the symptoms of heartburn, protect the LDL cholesterol from oxidation and lower levels, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), improve kidney function, fluid retention, bladder infections and improve liver function.

Gallstones and gallbladder disease is not uncommon especially as we get older and have not had the best diet. It can also be a familial condition and we have it in our family. Artichoke may prevent the formation of gallstones and improve bile flow which is very important for the removal of toxins and long-term health.

Some cultures also use artichoke extract for lowering blood pressure and blood sugar or as a tonic.

As a food Artichokes contain many essential nutrients.

FOLATE: FOLIC ACID; Folic acid is a B vitamin essential for cell replication and growth. It helps form the building blocks of DNA the body’s genetic information which is why it is recommended prior to conception and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to ensure the rapidly growing and replicating cells of the foetus are normal. This helps prevent low birth weight and abnormalities such as Heart defects or lip and palate malformations. It also helps prevent complications during pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia

It is essential for transporting co-enzymes needed for amino acid metabolism in the body and is necessary for a functioning nervous system.

VITAMIN C: ASCORBIC ACID; An antioxidant that protects LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) from oxidative damage, leading to hardening of the arteries. May also protect against heart disease reducing the hardening of arteries and the tendency of platelets to clump together blocking them. Vitamin C is necessary to form collagen, which acts like glue strengthening parts of the body such as muscles and blood vessels. It aids with healing and is a natural anti-histamine.

It is essential for the action of the Immune system and plays a part in the actions of the white blood cells and anti-bodies. It protects other antioxidants A and E from free radical damage and is involved in the production of some adrenal hormones

VITAMIN K: PHYLLOQUINONE; Necessary for proper bone formation and blood clotting, preventing calcification in our blood vessels and maintaining a healthy neurological system including in the brain.

MANGANESE: Needed for healthy skin, bone and cartilage formation as well as glucose tolerance. Also forms part of the antioxidant superoxide dismutase, which helps prevent free radical damage. It is also needed for the efficient metabolism of cholesterol, amino acids and fatty acids. It may aid in weight loss as our body more efficiently processes the foods that we eat.

POTASSIUM: This is the main cation (positively charged electrolyte). It reacts with sodium and chloride to maintain a perfect working environment in and around each cell. It allows the transmission of nerve impulses and helps maintain the correct fluid balance in the body. It also regulates levels of acidity and alkalinity in the body. It is also required for carbohydrate and protein metabolism. It is connected to normal heart rhythms and to keep Blood Pressure within a healthy range.

So as you can see plenty of great reasons to eat artichokes at least once a week and if like me you find the preparation and eating of this nutritious vegetable a bit of a problem then here is a ‘How To’ from Youtube.

Thanks to Shadow of Juniper Hill

©sallygeorginacronin Just Food For Health 2009

You will find other posts in this series here.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/medicine-womans-treasure-chest-herbs-and-spices/

Thanks for dropping by and I am always delighted with your feedback and please feel free to share the information.

 

Blood Pressure – Part Two – Nitrate and Potassium foods in your diet.


fruit and veg banner

As we get older we tend to start taking foods out of our diet rather than adding them in.  Food is not just to satisfy our hunger pangs or our cravings. The right foods containing the correct balance of healthy nutrients that have nourished them in their growth cycle are absolutely essential to maintain our own health. The miles of blood vessels in our body need to be maintained, kept flexible and capable of pumping blood to major organs 24 hours a day for our lifespan.. you have to meet your body half way on this and provide it with what it needs to do the job right!

In the last post we have looked at losing weight, reducing salt and exercise to help maintain a healthy BP and today I look at some foods that can also, eaten in moderation, help maintain that balance. They belong primarily to two groups – nitrate rich and those containing potassium.

Nitrate rich foods

Plants absorb naturally occurring nitrate in soil through their roots and it is essential to their healthy growth and development. However it has to go through some chemical adaptation to enable the plant to use efficiently and it goes through various stages to end up as amino acids and chlorophyll. We as humans can reuse those amino acids in the plants that we eat and therefore obtain these second hand benefits ourselves. There are other chemical and bacterial processes that are in play but fundamentally the end result is an easy and efficient way for us to obtain a critically important component in our essential nutrient bundle.

Nitrates are called vasodilators which mean that they dilate or widen the blood vessels in the body. This allows for a healthy blood flow which in turn provides oxygen rich blood to the heart muscle. It is effective for both arteries and veins and regulates blood flow to the heart reducing the work load on the muscle. You will find that many prescribed medications for conditions such as Angina are nitrate based.

This is why as we get into middle age it is so important to include a high quantity of high quality, raw and low processed vegetables and fruit in our diet. Five portions are simply not enough and is the minimum. Ideally I suggest that you have at least Six portions of vegetables a day and Two of fruit.

There are many nitrate vegetables and fruits in the fresh produce aisle in the supermarket or in our own gardens but these are the ones that I include in my diet regularly.

beetroot

Beetroot – 250ml daily contains 0.2g of dietary nitrate and in studies has been shown to result in an average ten point decrease in blood pressure levels. Beetroot juice is not for the faint hearted, I don’t find the taste too bad but please do not be alarmed by the side effects. You will find that after about 24 hours you will pee and poo pink – and sometimes red!

I make a smoothie with beetroot, celery and banana two or three times a week.. Takes a little getting used to but certainly a nitrate and potassium punch. One 8oz serving is enough but you need to make on the day rather than store as the banana turns it a rather disgusting colour after an hour or so. You can add any of the following to either a savoury smoothie or a slightly sweeter one..

I find beetroot more palatable than eating the alternative of two bowls of dark green lettuce a day to obtain the same amount of dietary nitrate however if you include some of these nitrate rich foods regularly the accumulative effect will contribute to a healthier BP.

I eat an onion a day (cooked and consume the odd breath mint) and also garlic regularly and find that the combined effect is beneficial. Here are others to include:- Broccoli, cabbage and kale, celery, rocket lettuce, string beans, pumpkins, avocados, bananas, strawberries, tomatoes and grapes.

Potassium rich foods.

bananas

Bananas – I would have great fun with my clients, and after all a good laugh is better than most medicines, when they would pronounce that they did not eat bananas because they were fattening! In my heyday I could demolish a tub of Haagen Daz Ice cream at 2000 calories and not blink and having seen my client’s food diaries they had similar tastes so making a banana the bad guy is hilarious.

For me the banana is one of nature’s gifts in a small but delicious package. Already wrapped it is easy to take with you anywhere, and comes from a family with 300 varieties and is the fourth most important staple food due to its high nutritional content. It can be eaten at any age and easily digested and has protein, B vitamins and the banana contains potassium.

I covered the need for sodium in our diet when writing about salt, but we also need potassium because it reacts with sodium and chloride to maintain a perfect environment in and around each of our cells. It is the main Cation (positively charged electrolyte) and it allows the transmission of nerve impulses and helps maintain the correct fluid balance in the body as well as helping regulate the levels of acidity and alkalinity in the body. Potassium is required for carbohydrate and protein metabolism, is connected to normal heart rhythms and without the correct balance of sodium and potassium our muscles would not work correctly and this includes our heart muscle.

With elevated blood pressure or when diets contain too much salt, potassium rich foods such as bananas help counteract the affect by dilating the blood vessels, enhancing the excretion of water and excess sodium from the body and suppressing the hormones that cause elevations in BP. You will also see from the section on nitrates that the banana also contains these too.

The banana itself has some great health benefits and appears to improve stress levels, heartburn, ulcers, PMS and at around 150 calories for a large banana is a great snack. You will find more information in the Food Pharmacy.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2014/05/20/food-pharmacy-the-banana-from-hangovers-to-warts-and-all-a-neatly-wrapped-remedy-on-the-go/

Other potassium rich foods to include in your diet on a regular basis are potatoes, green vegetables of all kinds especially spinach. Also mushrooms, tomatoes, oranges, prunes, apricots, fish such as halibut and tuna – yogurts etc.

Do not overcook your green vegetables and steaming retains most of the nutrients or eat raw and add to smoothies.. If you do cook in a pot blanch for under five minutes and freeze and then reheat for a few minutes in the microwave.. This way the greens stay a lovely colour and also do not lose their nutrients such as their nitrate component into the water that just gets thrown away. You can keep the water to add to homemade chicken stock for a rich gravy so that you waste nothing.

As well as fresh fruit and vegetables there is another key element of our diets that can help to maintain the health of our blood vessels and also the blood flow. That is wholegrains.

wholegrains

Once we are past the growing phase of our bodies (upward not outward!) we do not need as many carbohydrates but we need enough to offer us the correct fuel mix for our activity levels. There is a great deal of press about giving them up to lose weight, or impress our gut bacteria etc…etc.

However in my opinion this is a dangerous strategy as our bodies require the elements from the right carbohydrates to provide essential vitamins and minerals and to give us the energy to get through each day.

Fibre is a component that removes waste from the body which includes toxins. It also is a little like a vacuum cleaner in as much as it removes unwanted clumps of debris that are collecting in various places in the body.. This allows for smooth passage of fluids such as blood increasing blood flow.

Here is an article in the Daily Telegraph yesterday on one of my favourite carbohydrates that I include every other day, Oats. Also a link to a cholesterol article on carbohydrates and their importance in maintaining a health cholesterol and BP balance.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/11325968/Porridge-could-be-key-to-a-long-and-healthy-life-says-Harvard-University.html

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/the-cholesterol-myth-carbohydrates-not-all-are-demons/

Here is the first part of the Blood Pressure posts.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/blood-pressure-hidden-salt-in-your-diet/

Please ask any questions that you would like clarified.. If you do so in the comments then that might help others. If you would like to ask me something regarding nutrition privately then email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Photographs – Pinterest