High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is the most common cardiovascular disease. Blood pressure refers to the force of blood pushing against artery walls as it courses through the body. Each time heart beats; it pumps out blood into the arteries. Blood pressure is highest when the heart beats, pumping the blood. This is called systolic pressure. When the heart is at rest, between beats, the blood pressure falls. This is the diastolic pressure.
The heart, a muscle about the size of a fist, is one of the hardest working organs in our bodies. Over the course of an average life span, it beats about two and a half billion times without ever taking a break. The daily choices we make about how we live our lives determine our hearts' ability to function optimally.
Beneficial Vegetables and Spices for Hypertension
A number of common vegetables and spices have beneficial effects in controlling hypertension. Incorporate these into your cooking:
Celery (ajmud): Oriental Medicine practitioners have long used celery for lowering high blood pressure. There are some experimental evidence that shows that celery is useful for this. In one animal study, laboratory animals injected with celery extract showed lowered blood pressure. Eating as few as four celery stalks a day was found to be beneficial in lowering blood pressure in human beings. However, celery does contain sodium and other compounds that can have negative effects when large amounts are ingested.
Onion: Onions are useful in hypertension. Two to three tablespoons of onion essential oil a day was found to lower the systolic levels by an average of 25 points and the diastolic levels by 15 points in hypertension subjects. This should not be surprising because onion is a cousin of garlic.
Tomato: Tomatoes are high in gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), a compound that can help bring down blood pressure.
Broccoli (hari phoolgobhi): Glucoraphanin, also known as sulforaphane glucosinolate (SGS), a naturally-occurring compound found in broccoli sprouts and broccoli, help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Carrot: Carrots are high in potassium, which can help prevent and control high blood pressure. They are also high in beta-carotene, which studies show can reduce the risk of heart disease leading to high blood pressure. Carrot juice helps to maintain normal blood pressure by regulating heart and kidney functions. A recommended dose is a 240 ml blend of one part celery juice, one part carrot juice and one part water, taken at least once a day.
Saffron (kesar): Saffron contains a chemical called crocetin that lowers the blood pressure. You can use saffron in your cooking. (It is a very popular spice in Arabic cooking.) You can also make a tea with it. Many Indians add a pinch of saffron in the brewed tea to give a heavenly flavor. Unfortunately, it is very expensive.
Assorted spices: Spices such as fennel (saunf), oregano (ajwain), black pepper (kali mirch) and basil (tulsi) have active ingredients that are beneficial in hypertension. Use them in your cooking.
Regular aerobic exercise (walking, running) for 20 to 30 minutes most days of the week can lower your blood pressure, although the effect is not as pronounced among older adults. To maintain this benefit, you must continue to exercise; stopping exercise will allow your blood pressure to become high again.
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