Thursday, February 16, 2012

Feed Kidneys, Control Blood Pressure

Did you know that high blood pressure often begins in the kidneys? A hormone called renin, secreted by the kidneys, controls whether blood pressure rises or falls. And the amount of renin produced is tied to diet. The kidneys will secrete more renin if:
  • there is too much sodium in the diet
  • we are under stress
  • the body has inflammation
Luckily, what we eat has direct bearing on those three factors. The FDA's recommended daily allowance of sodium is only 1500 milligrams, an amount that is exceeded simply by eating a bowl of Cheerios and a grilled cheese sandwich. Many Americans get more than 8000 milligrams per day. But by eating the nutritarian way, we drastically reduce sodium levels without even touching the salt shaker. This is accomplished by filling up on fruits, vegetables and legumes (not canned), which have on average ten times less sodium than processed foods. If you miss the salty taste, you can add high-mineral foods to your cuisine, such as dried celery leaves or powdered sea vegetables (kelp, nori, etc.)

Though stress has more to do with emotional than physical health, diet can still impact it immensely. Magnesium can help the body relax, and foods that are high in magnesium include leafy greens, nuts, seeds and fruits!

Inflammation has also been correlated to what we eat. It has been shown that sugary and starchy foods, processed meats, food additives, oils and transfats all contribute to the release of prostaglandins that fuel the body's inflammatory response. Those foods that are anti-inflammatory are vegetables, fruits, nuts, omega-3 fats, and limited whole grains.

Many people notice their blood pressure dropping within a few weeks of becoming nutritarian as the kidneys stop producing so much renin. Blood pressure can also be reduced by consuming natural diuretics (such as parsley and bitter greens), by using vasodilators (cayenne, ginger, garlic), and by eating cholesterol-lowering phytosterols (found in berries, cruciferous vegetables, onions, nuts and seeds).

Keeping kidneys functioning normally and blood pressure within acceptable ranges are two more reasons to eat a healthy plant-based diet.

To your health and happiness,


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