Oriental Medicine Nutrition For Heart Health/Hypertension
Oriental medicine (OM) nutrition combines ancient wisdom with modern science. OM nutrition is a holistic approach, which aims to balance all five flavors within most meals with one or two flavors being emphasized for therapeutic purposes. OM nutrition for hypertension emphasizes bitter flavors, sour flavors and energetically-cooling foods.
OM theory states that bitter flavor benefits the heart in moderation but an excess is harmful as it has a drying effect; for example, coffee is bitter. In moderation coffee acts as vasodilator increasing circulation but in excess it can raise blood pressure and has a diuretic effect. Modern scientific research has discovered while the human genome has 25 bitter taste receptors 12 of these are expressed in the human heart.
Foods with bitter flavors include romaine lettuce, dandelion, arugula, and rye. Foods that combine bitter with pungency include citrus peel, radish, scallion and white pepper. In OM nutrition the pungent flavor can help disperse phlegm (e.g. plaque). Foods that combine bitter with sweet include asparagus, celery, tomatoes, lettuce, quinoa and papaya. Lemon rind is bitter and sour; vinegar is also bitter and sour.
Bitter flavors have a yin, or cooling effect, clearing heat in the body while encouraging a descent of Qi, which aids in the draining of fluids. For example, celery contains the phytochemical phthalides, which relax arterial wall tissues to increase blood flow and thereby reduce blood pressure. The fiber, magnesium and potassium in celery also help lower blood pressure and regulate fluid balance.
A tomato a day keeps the doctor away. The combination of lycopene, vitamin C and E, potassium and folic acid in tomatoes make it a power food for heart health. The bitter flavor of tomatoes come from the seeds; to reap the full benefit of tomatoes eat the seeds too. Heirloom tomatoes in season have the most flavor, find the tastiest tomatoes at your farmer’s market or try growing your own.
For those who happen to have hypertension plus a lot of dryness, dry skin, dry eyes, dry mouth and thirst, constipation and even hormonal deficiencies can benefit from increasing their healthy fat intake. Many nutrients are fat soluble, the body uses cholesterol to make hormones, bile and vitamin D. Healthy fats nourish yin in OM nutrition theory. Some Americans who suffer from hypertension are also thin with an underlying yin deficiency, such as those with the onset of hypertension that coincides with menopausal symptoms. Source foods with healthy fats include nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, flaxseed oil and fish.
Eating beans, peas and grains are high in potassium, magnesium, and fiber, and are high in choline which is vital in lowering hypertension and boosting fat metabolism. Whole grains are also a good source of niacin and vitamin E and are recommended for healthy arteries, especially those that are slightly bitter such as rye, quinoa, amaranth and oats.
It is very important to visit a licensed, trained, experienced acupuncturist/Chinese herbalist if you are interested in implementing any of these ideas or want a personalized plan for your specific condition.