Monday, July 16, 2012

Ask Us Anything: How Can I Lower My Blood Pressure with a Vegetarian Diet?

"I'm a vegetarian and have high blood pressure. My doctor advised me to start eating meat; she says that the fake meats that I eat (which are made of soy) are full of salt. But I would rather not give up my vegetarian lifestyle. What are some common foods that are high in salt that I should avoid? Is giving up these foods enough to allow me to continue to eat soy products?"

Registered Dietitian Deborah Richter Responds:

A vegetarian diet can be a healthful diet and low in sodium.

Most fresh vegetables, fruits and whole foods, including soy beans and other dried beans and legumes, are naturally low in sodium and should be included in vegetarian eating.

The problem is that processed foods like soy protein patties and vegetarian burgers can be very high in sodium. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommendation for daily sodium is 1500mg for people with hypertension (high blood pressure). The All American Flame Grilled Boca® burger at 380mg sodium is 25% of the daily recommendation, which is why your physician recommended reducing your intake of processed soy protein burgers.

Black bean burgers are easy to prepare and the sodium is only 25mg if you use no-salt-added canned black beans. Additionally, dried beans are an excellent source of potassium, which can help to lower blood pressure.

The DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) diet is a way to eat that is consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. DASH aims to increase fruit and vegetable intake to at least 6 to 10 servings per day and to consume more dried beans and nuts as protein choices, with two to three low-fat dairy servings per day, as well as eating more whole grains.

Vegetarian Black Bean Burgers

Makes 6 Burgers

  • ½ onion, diced
  • 1 can black beans, no salt added, well drained
  • ½ cup unbleached flour
  • 2 slices bread, crumbled
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • Oil for frying
  • Pepper, dried red pepper or other seasonings such as hot sauce as desired for a spicy flavor

  1. Sautee the diced onions until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes in a non-stick pan or add 1 tsp. canola or olive oil in pan.
  2. Mash beans until smooth. Add sautéed onions and the remaining ingredients, adding the flour one or two tablespoons at a time until well blended. Mixture will be thick.
  3. Form bean mixture into six ½ inch thick patties and pan fry in a small amount of oil until slightly firm and heated, flipping only once, (about 5 minutes per side).
  4. Serve with a whole grain roll and lettuce, tomato, and salsa for a delicious low sodium option.

Additional Resources

— Deborah Richter, RD, CDE

Deborah Richter is a registered dietitian at Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus in Cheektowaga and is a certified diabetes educator. She teaches diabetes education classes and provides outpatient nutrition counseling. She has helped her clients to lose weight, reduce their blood pressure and feel better about themselves through healthy eating choices.

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