Low Carbohydrate Foods for Lowering Blood Pressure
Low carbohydrate diet is in vogue and for all the good reasons. A low carb diet limits intake of carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, chapati, rice, sugary foods, and the like. It is usually high in proteins, fats and healthy vegetables.
Eating foods low in carbohydrates help you in many ways, such as weight loss, sugar control (in diabetics), and blood pressure control, to name just a few.
What is Hypertension?
High blood pressure is the increased pressure (tension) in the arteries. It is also medically referred to as Hypertension (Hyper = more). Arteries are tubular structures that carry blood from the heart to the different organs and tissues of the body. The pressure exerted on the walls of the arteries by the blood flowing inside is recorded as blood pressure. When there is a constriction of the arteries, the blood flowing inside exerts excessive pressure on the walls of the arteries which is termed as high blood pressure.
The blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). It is actually a reading of 2 pressures; systolic and diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure (higher side reading) is the pressure exerted by the blood on the arterial walls whereas the diastolic pressure (lower side reading) is the residual pressure exerted on the arteries when the heart relaxes.
The ideal blood pressure is not a fixed number but a range, between 90/60 mmHg and 120/80 mmHg. According to the American Heart Association (AHA) a blood pressure of 130/80 mmHg or above is defined as hypertension.
Hypertension is of 2 Types
- Primary (essential) hypertension
- Secondary hypertension
In primary or essential hypertension, the blood pressure is raised without an underlying cause. 90% of hypertension cases fall in this category. This type of hypertension is difficult to reverse but can be controlled with lifestyle and diet changes. Secondary hypertension is caused by another disease or illness i.e. high blood pressure is a result of another medical condition. It caused by conditions affecting the kidneys, arteries, heart, etc. Secondary hypertension can be reversed if the underlying cause is treated.
How do Low Carbohydrate Foods Help in Lowering High Blood Pressure?
Carbohydrates are of 2 types – Simple and Complex.
Simple carbohydrates are easily and quickly broken down in our body for energy. Therefore, an excess of food rich in simple carbohydrate can be converted to fat easily. They are found is highly processed foods like biscuits, crackers, etc. They lack in nutrients like vitamins and minerals and do not have fibre.
On the other hand, complex carbohydrates are laden with fibre other nutrients. Our body takes longer time to digest these complex carbs. These are present in whole grains, beans and pulses.
A study conducted by the American Physiological society in 2013, showed that reducing carbohydrate intake in hypertensive patients can lower blood pressure by improving the arterial function.
It also helps in losing weight, keeps blood cholesterol levels in check and aids in lowering blood sugar levels (in diabetics).
Low Carbohydrate Foods for Indian Diet
Vegetables – Less root & more shoot
Eat all vegetables that grow above the ground. Reduce intake of potatoes, sweet potatoes and other vegetables that are high in starch. Also, limit consumption of vegetables that are high in sugar content like carrots and beetroot. Consume your veggies often throughout the day as they are rich source of fibre.
- Eggplant (Brinjal)
- Bottle gourd
- Ridge gourd
- Bitter gourd
- Green beans
- Fenugreek leaves
- Bell Peppers (Capsicum)
Dairy – Opt for less fat variants
Avoid the low-fat versions instead have full-fat dairy products. The low and reduced fat products often have high sugar and sodium content to make up for the flavour loss.
- Cream (40% fat)
- Sour cream
- Curd (made from full-fat milk)
- Avoid flavoured, sugary and low-fat products.
- Cow’s milk is high in lactose, which is a form of natural sugar
Those who are lactose-intolerant can try the unsweetened plant-based milk of almond, cashews and soy.
Nuts and Seeds – Get nutty
Here is another choice of foods that is rich in fibre. These are great for a treat when eaten in moderation instead of chips, popcorn and cookies. Avoid the flavoured variety or the ones with added sugars. Instead, munch on these.
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds (Til)
- Flax seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Meats and Eggs – How meaty can you get?
There is minimal amount of carbohydrates in all your favourite proteins like meat and eggs. Try to consume lean meats to avoid saturated fats. Also, do not consume the marinated or treated meats as they contain salt and added sugar.
Your choices are:
All types of fish and seafood can be consumed as they are low in fat and carbs but high in protein. Fatty fish like a good option as they are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
All fats have zero carbohydrates. Try choosing the ones that are high in healthy unsaturated fats like extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil, groundnut oil. Avoid coconut oil, palm oil and butter that are high in saturated fats.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Groundnut oil
- Sunflower oil
- Avocado oil
Sip, sip, sip
Water is essential to digest the high protein diet. There are a few drinks that one can have apart from water to quench your thirst and add a little flavour to your drinks.
- Coconut water
- Tea, hot or cold
- Lemonade (with little or no sugar)
- Fruit juice – You can have fibre rich juice like berries or orange or sweet lime without added sugar.
- You can also make your water taste good by adding a lemon slice or cucumber or orange slice to it.
Eating fruits in moderation can be a good source of fibre and micronutrients. But avoid fruits like banana, chickoo, custard apple, mango, etc that are high in natural sugar. You can have orange, lemons, sweet lime, peach, plum and berries.
Foods That Must Be Avoided
There 6 groups of foods that should be avoided while following a low carb diet. They are as follows:
Sugar – Soft drinks, ice-creams, candies and all other products that contain added sugar.
Refined grains – Wheat, Refined flour (maida), Rice, Bread, Biscuits, Cereals and Pasta.
Highly Processed Food – Any food that is made in a factory should be avoided as it is high in sugar or salt.
Starchy vegetables – Vegetables like potatoes, sweet potato, raw banana, yam, etc have a very high starch content. While following a low-carb diet, it is best to avoid or limit consumption of these vegetables.
Trans fats – Hydrogenated fat or hydrogenated oil, which is usually found in bakery products like cakes, pastries, cookies, etc should be completely avoided.
Diet or Low-fat products – Foods labelled as ‘low-fat’ or ‘diet-friendly’ are usually high in sugar and preservatives and are best avoided.
While low-carb foods have many benefits, it is important to understand that carbohydrates form an important food group in our diets. They are an essential part of a balanced diet, and a complete absence of them may lead to digestive problems.
If you’re thinking of reducing carbs significantly or completely, it is best to talk to a doctor or nutritionist and strategise on how to fill your diet with fibre- and prebiotic-rich foods.
It should also be noted that pregnant or breastfeeding women, or those with various health complications, should not consider such diets without the advice and close monitoring from a doctor or a nutritionist.