Hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) is a common urban disease. Hong Kong is no exception, it is not hard to fathom why with eating out being so popular. Most dishes served in local Chinese restaurants contain high-sodium, high-fat content, and they are the real culprits on the run you should watch out for.
According to the “Eating out for lunch” survey conducted by the Centre for Health Protection in 2015, more than 80% of Hong Kong people eat out for lunch at least once a week, and almost half of the people eat out more than 5 times a week. A typical meal-on-one-plate in cha chaan teng, like fried rice noodles with sliced beef (干炒牛河) and steamed rice with barbecued pork (叉燒飯), may already exceed the daily recommendation for sodium intake, according to the Centre for Food Safety.
Hypertension (a hidden killer!) usually strikes without physical symptoms and signs. It is also associated with other serious health problems, such as higher risk of heart disease, kidney failure and stroke. Apart from medications, you can also consider the low sodium food therapy, DASH diet, proposed by the National Health, Lung, and Blood Institute in 1997. It is arguably the magic formula for preventing and treating this urban disease.
The DASH diet stands for the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension, it is a diet designed to control and prevent hypertension. The DASH diet highlights “low salt, low sugar and low oil”, with consumption of foods high in potassium, magnesium, calcium, dietary fiber and quality protein, as well as a low intake of sodium, added sugar, saturated fat and trans fat.
The DASH diet is a heart-healthy eating pattern, so even without hypertension, you may still follow this diet to regulate blood pressure and “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in blood so as to maintain heart health.
The general principles of a DASH diet:
The standard DASH diet limits sodium intake to 2,300mg a day, which is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of table salt. An even lower-sodium version of the DASH diet restricts sodium intake to 1,500mg a day, which is equivalent to ¾ teaspoon of table salt. According to the DASH-Sodium Trial, the lower the salt intake, the greater the reduction of blood pressure.
To further cut sodium, try out the following tips provided by the Mayo Clinic:
When grocery shopping,
Extra low-sodium tips for eating out:
It may take a while for your appetite to adapt to a low-sodium diet; but once you are used to it, you may find that the natural flavor of the foods come out tasting even better without so much salt.
The DASH diet provides recommendations on the daily and/or weekly servings of each food group based on your daily calorie needs and activity level. They are easy to follow, comprising common foods that are readily accessible at your local grocery store.
Based on the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a person who requires 2,000 daily calories, i.e. a 19-30-year-old female with sedentary activity level or a male with sedentary activity level aged over 51, has to consume:
|Meats, poultry, and fish
|6 or less
|Low-fat or fat-free dairy products
|Fats and oils
|Nuts, seeds, dry beans, and peas
5 or less
|Sample of one serving
|Importance to the DASH diet
|6-8 daily servings of grains
1 slice of bread
|Whole-wheat bread and rolls, whole-wheat pasta, English muffin, pita bread, bagel, cereals, grits, oatmeal, brown rice, unsalted pretzels and popcorn
|Major sources of energy and fiber
|Less than 6 daily servings of meats, poultry, and fish
1 oz cooked meats, poultry or fish
|Select only lean; trim away visible fats; broil, roast, or poach; remove skin from poultry
|Rich sources of protein and magnesium
|4-5 daily servings of vegetables
1 cup of raw leafy vegetable
|Broccoli, carrots, collards, green beans, green peas, kale, lima beans, potatoes, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes
|Rich sources of potassium, magnesium and fiber
|4-5 daily servings of fruit
1 medium fruit
|Apples, apricots, bananas, dates, grapes, oranges, grapefruit, grapefruit juice, mangoes, melons, peaches, pineapples, raisins, strawberries, tangerines
|Important sources of potassium, magnesium and fiber
|2-3 daily servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products
1 cup milk or yogurt
|Fat-free milk or buttermilk; fat-free, low-fat, or reduced-fat cheese; fat-free/low-fat regular or frozen yogurt
|Major sources of calcium and protein
|2-3 servings of fats and oils
1 tsp soft margarine
|Soft margarine, vegetable oil (canola, corn, olive, safflower), low-fat mayonnaise, light salad dressing
|The DASH study had 27% of calories as fat, including fat in or added to foods
4-5 weekly servings of nuts, seeds, dry beans, and peas