Hypertension Awareness Month: How Nutrition Can Impact Heart Health

Heart health
Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash
Lisa De Beer, Muskoka Registered Dietitian
Lisa De Beer, Muskoka Registered Dietitian at Your Independent Grocer. Photo courtesy of Lisa De Beer

Guest column on Hypertension Awareness Month provided by Lisa De Beer, Muskoka Registered Dietitian at Your Independent Grocer

Making heart healthy food choices is important for our overall health and wellness. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, often goes unnoticed because people don’t always have symptoms. More than 17 per cent of Canadians who have hypertension don’t know they have it! The good news is, with a few simple food and lifestyle changes, your risk for developing high blood pressure can be lowered. Being Hypertension Awareness Month, I wanted to share some of my top tips about heart health nutrition for Muskoka community members to keep in mind:

Choose foods with less sodium – Too much sodium in your diet can increase blood pressure. When possible, try to choose low-sodium or low salt packaged foods to reduce your sodium intake. Try using lemon or lime juice, flavoured vinegars, and/or herbs and spices to flavour your food when cooking, instead of adding salt. Not only will this reduce your sodium intake, but it will also add lots of great flavour to your meals.

Other minerals to reduce hypertension – Another way to reduce your risk of developing hypertension or to manage high blood pressure is to include foods containing potassium, magnesium, and calcium in your diet. These nutrients help to control blood pressure. Try to include low fat dairy, nuts and seeds, dried peas, beans and lentils, and a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet regularly.

Fibre for a healthy heart – Increasing your intake of soluble fibre can help to reduce your blood cholesterol. Some great sources of soluble fibre include oats, oat bran, barley, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, apples and applesauce, oranges, pears, and legumes (i.e. chickpeas, lentils, beans). It is important to increase fibre in your diet slowly so that your digestive system has time to adjust. It is also important to make sure you drink enough water to keep your digestive system working well as you increase fibre.

Not all fats are created equal – For heart health, choose small amounts of unsaturated fats such as olive, peanut, sunflower or canola oil more often. Another type of unsaturated fat that is important to include in your diet is omega-3 fat. Try to eat fatty fish such as salmon, trout, sardines, or tuna twice a week and consider adding walnuts, ground flaxseed, chia seeds or hemp hearts to foods like yogurt and hot cereal. You should limit intake of saturated fat by choosing lower fat dairy products, lean meats and by choosing dried peas, beans, or lentils as a protein source more often. It is best to try and avoid intake of trans fat as much as possible. Look for foods with 0 grams of trans fat on the Nutrition Facts table on food labels.

As your local Muskoka In-Store Registered Dietitian, I am here to support you in reaching your nutrition goals. Whether you’re looking for nutrition advice, or help making healthy food choices in the grocery aisles, I am here to help. To learn more about the services I offer, or to book an appointment with me, visit yourindependentgrocer.ca/dietitians. Looking forward to seeing you in the store soon!

Hope you enjoy this heart healthy delicious dish. It can be a great compliment to your spring barbecue season!

Moroccan Carrot and Chickpea Salad


  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 cups thinly sliced peeled carrots
  • 2 tbsp minced shallots
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley


  1. Heat 2 tbsp (25 mL) of the oil in large frying pan over medium-high heat; fry chickpeas for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often, or until light golden. Season with half each of the salt and pepper; sprinkle with cumin and cayenne. Continue to fry for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often, or until spices are fragrant.
  2. Stir in carrots, shallots, garlic and remaining 3 tbsp (45 mL) oil; season with remaining salt and pepper. Fry for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often, or until carrots begin to soften and lightly brown. Drizzle in 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the lemon juice and 1 tbsp (15 mL) water. Cover and steam for 5 minutes or until carrots are tender-crisp.
  3. Stir in honey, parsley and remaining 1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon juice, transfer to serving dish; serve warm.


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