Campus dining and high blood pressure

Originally Published: December 21, 1995 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: December 1, 2009
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Alice,

I have a high blood pressure problem. What kind of food should I get at Columbia dining?

-- Pumping

Dear Pumping,

There's been much progress made when it comes to understanding the role of nutrition in maintaining lower blood pressure. Previously, the dietary emphasis was on following a low sodium diet. Today, the treatment of high blood pressure involves looking at a more holistic combination of factors:

  • body composition — following a diet and exercise program that leads to balanced body composition
  • increased potassium and calcium intake (especially in men)
  • lowered dietary sodium

Specifically, in terms of eating on campus, you could try following some of these guidelines:

  • At breakfast: Have skim milk or low fat yogurt with a whole grain cereal to increase your calcium intake.
  • At lunch: Add more fresh fruit and vegetables, which will increase your potassium intake. If you need to lose weight, avoid the obvious high fat foods [e.g., burgers and fries (which are also high in sodium as well)]. Instead, try fresh roasted turkey breast. Make sure it's fresh roasted and not the turkey roll, which is more processed and contains more sodium than the fresh breast.
  • At dinner: Again, add more steamed veggies (celery, broccoli, and cauliflower are high in both calcium and potassium) and fresh fruits. When possible, eat fresh foods that are grilled or baked. The more sauces or coatings added, the greater the chance for increased sodium.

Remember that there are many underlying reasons for high blood pressure. Body shape and size don't always predict high blood pressure as you may be naturally thin, eat well, and still wind up with high numbers. Adding an exercise habit to your life could prove beneficial for your blood pressure and overall health. If you are a Columbia student, call x4-2284 or log on to Open Communicator to schedule an appointment with a provider in primary care or with a nutritionist. Together, you can decide what long-term preventative care is suggested in your particular case. Columbia Reaching Out With Nutrition (C.R.O.W.N.) is another great resource for guidance on making balanced choices. For more information on monitoring blood pressure, see Blood Pressure Numbers.

Happy dining!

Alice