This is a first. I’ve never written a post with “Naked” in the title. I feel a little scandalous, but unafraid.
Before I lose you (though, to be fair, if the name of this blog didn’t lose you, I suspect NAKED won’t either and I love you for it) I’ll mention the fact that Naked Nutrition sent me samples of their protein powders (specifically whey protein and peanut butter powder), and I’ve been adding them to our lunchtime smoothies every day. I am enjoying them very much!
I love having a smoothie for lunch every day, but my body is happier if I have some protein at lunchtime. I begin to fizzle out pretty quickly after lunch, energy-wise, if I go with fruit-only smoothies. But some protein powders that I’ve purchased in the past are full of spurious ingredients. What the heck? Artificial flavors and colors, synthetic sweeteners, yuck! In a product that primarily was developed to enhance health? Why??
That’s what I like about the Naked protein powders: there are no additives, no artificial sweeteners or flavorings. In fact the ingredient list is very short and nothing will cause you to scratch your head and wonder: what on earth is that?? Before I start to sound like a commercial, however, allow me to share just why I’ve been drinking super-charged smoothies for lunch every day. (Mack drinks them with me. He is trying to build muscle and his health.)
Okay, please bear with me: it’s much easier for me to share chicken stories, recipes, gardening tips and homesteading how-tos, but understanding how to build good health has always been a huge interest for me as well.
Since the days when my little Swedish grandma would take me out into her yard and teach me how to gather dandelion leaves and lambs’ quarters for salads (and the dandelion blossoms too: edible flowers!), I’ve taken a keen interest in wild foods. Mom also loved to forage and of course all of us kids accompanied her on mushroom hunts, cattail and sumac harvests, and hunts for many other wild foods. They were treasure hunts to us!
One of my favorite things today, in fact, is to forage for wild foods and then share with others how to use and enjoy them. The more I learn, the more I marvel at the world that God provided–right off the bat!–to nourish and strengthen our bodies!
Not surprisingly, many wild foods are super-charged with vitamins and minerals. Every time I gather a handful of lambs’ quarters or wild nettles for a green smoothie, I feel like I’m gathering nutritional treasure.
My interest in healthy habits has intensified in the past year and a half, for obvious reasons. Not only has the current public obsession on disease been quite . . . . erm . . . interesting, I’ve also struggled with my own health a bit in the past few years.
I’m not comfortable with getting too personal on this blog. But in the interest of helping somebody else with what I’ve learned about a very common health challenge, here goes: I discovered that my body has been flirting around with higher and higher blood pressure.
The first time I had a higher-than-normal blood pressure reading was a shock! I mean, it was a big blow: a nod to my mortality, of course. I never imagined struggling with this particular issue. I quickly navigated through the classic stages of grief:
- denial (clearly the blood pressure machine is broken! It had to be.)
- guilt (how could I have let this happen? Baaad irresponsible me! *wailing*)
- anger and bargaining (I’ll never eat another French fry if it’ll just go back down . . )
- depression (what’s the use? I’ll just stay in bed and eat Nutella out of the jar and bacon until I die)
- upward turn (maybe I should read a book about hbp? And talk to my doctor?)
- working through (I’m monitoring, eating better, exercising like a lunatic!)
- acceptance and hope (It’s going down bit by bit, now to figure out exactly what I did that actually helped, so I can continue doing it and sharing it with others)
This fact should not have come as a surprise to me, but it was, for reasons detailed below. I am an American after all, and the #1 cause of death for Americans is heart disease. And of course high blood pressure is kind of a canary in a coal mine type of thing, a possible/probable precursor to heart disease, from my understanding.
Of course at this point I’ll issue a polite disclaimer, in red no less: I am not a doctor, nor did I play one on t.v.
Let’s just assume that if you have the beginnings of heart disease, or if your body (like mine) was flirting with that notion with ever-higher bp numbers, you probably don’t have healthy blood pressure or cholesterol levels either. Even though I’m not a doctor, this seems logical to me.
I think the three kind of go hand-in-hand, so to speak, though of course there must be exceptions.
Though at my age and living where I do, it shouldn’t have been a huge shock. But this discovery of my own rising blood pressure was a huge punch to my (soft and squishy) gut. Why the surprise, you ask?
My name is Amy. I raise nearly everything we eat. I raise chickens! I eat weeds. I’m on my feet nearly the entire day, flitting out to the chicken yard and then to the mailbox and back to the hoop houses and the gardens. I’m happiest if I’m outside, in all types of weather, and lemme tell you I’m not sitting in a recliner out there with a beer in one hand and a bacon cheesecake in the other, either. No sirree bob. I’m a very active lady.
I eat greens every day and sprinkle herbs liberally on nearly every meal.
And I have high blood pressure. It just doesn’t seem to fit.
Furthermore. If my body is flirting with unhealthy notions like high blood pressure, I’d much rather figure out how to treat it with diet and exercise–a jillion times over!–before I will ask for a prescription. Not that I haven’t taken medicines in the past when there were no other choices. Not that I don’t laud the developments of life-saving medicines and therapies! But I’m a firm believer that if you take good care of your body–as much as possible–you can avoid a lot of the current health problems of our affluent world.
At least the top two causes of death in America are at least partially preventable: heart disease and cancer. (I know there are many exceptions, so please don’t come after me with the tar and feathers.) (I really look bad in black, and feathers are not my thang.)
So. Back to the probably-not-as-low-as-it-should-be blood pressure.
But first . . .
Once upon a time, there was a slender young lady with long golden hair. She was blessed with good health and she loved to run. In fact she ran so often and so quickly that her own sainted father, growing impatient with her, begged her often–nearly daily in fact–to slow the heck down.
His response when she ran down the staircase: Slow down, sis!
When she raced through the house: No running in the house, girl!
His reaction when she came in with a bloodied knee from tripping and falling: See, you shouldn’t have been going so fast, sis.
The girl grew up. She continued to run. It felt good and kept her leaning-towards-pear-shaped figure in check. It made her happy.
Whenever she had a routine check-up with her doctor, the doctor in fact would call his nurses, the other doctors, heck! even the receptionist in to gawk in wonder at the young lady. Why? Because she had such amazingly low blood pressure.
“Is she even actually alive?” a nurse asked, studying the woman.
“Does she indeed have a heart?” asked another doctor, fumbling at the wrist of the lass for a pulse (which was also very low).
“Yes indeed,” intoned the doctor, in puzzlement. “She is an anomaly.”
The young woman took pride in her anomaly-ness. The receptionist pulled a camera out of her pocket and took a Polaroid of this strange bird: a woman with blood pressure so low she could, indeed, be a corpse. Which–in this case–was actually a compliment.
A monkey in a little outfit stepped into the examination room and clanged cymbals at this point. The appointment came to an end.
Okay, that young woman was me. A couple things about that story may not be completely true. For example, the receptionist didn’t have a Polaroid camera. But everything else? Pretty much accurate.
The Sad Day
So, for decades–though I do live in a country where the #1 CAUSE OF DEATH IS HEART DISEASE, HELLO–I had absolutely no worries about blood pressure or heart disease. It never entered my head to be concerned about it. Super-low blood pressure, cheering nurses, celebratory clanging monkey cymbals . . . those items buoyed me. I instinctively knew that as long as I was running, I didn’t have to worry much about heart health. This simple strategy seemed to work for me: Run and Stay Healthy!
But the day came that I injured my ankle–out running, of course! Furthermore, the struggles I had in re-injuring it, led to my not running regularly for months. And then years. But I was busy with a large family and a small farm. I took up bike-riding and swimming laps in the summertime. Of course I was still active, but I never got over the longing to run again.
I regret giving it up, of course. Another thing I regret is (I’M ADMITTING FAILURE HERE! EVERYBODY TAKE NOTE!) not seeking help from a doctor or chiropractor to get my ankles (and then my knees, because I injured them too, of course) back into running shape.
More than that, I regret this: I decided somewhere along the line, that I was just too old (I was 50, c’mon, not a spring chicken but hardly one foot in the grave either) to run any longer. I had been running regularly for 35 years. Had I just worn our my poor old joints?
Giving in to this ill-fated suspicion, I abandoned my exciting, health-building, addictive running regimen and replaced it with a boring, on-again, off-again, walking routine. Many times the walking included children, dogs, hubby, friends, and I was the only one (THE ONLY ONE) who actually was thinking about fitness, not . . . . a pleasant (and not too long, please Mom) stroll.
Anyway. Two things happened when I decided that I was too old to run. 1. I gained weight, and 2. my blood pressure and cholesterol started rising.
Ever since I discovered these disquieting facts, I’ve been on a mission to change them. If the blood pressure and cholesterol can go up, they can fall back down, right? My patient doctor (hehe) assures me that this is possible, and has given me time to get my body right again. He’s a good guy. I hope he’s right.
So today I’ll share with you one huge–but tasty, and very simple–habit that I’ve started that has made a different in my high blood pressure: I’ve started drinking potassium-packed smoothies for lunch, nearly every day.
And that brings me back to the Naked protein powders, which I have grown to love dumping into my smoothies every day.
If you’ve studied anything about maintaining a healthy blood pressure, you’ll know that your sodium intake must be lower than your intake of several other minerals, including magnesium, calcium and potassium. The problem is . . . in the typical American diet, the sodium level is very high, and the level of the other minerals is extremely low. Whereby leading to our enemy to heart health–high blood pressure.
I am writing a mini-series of posts for you, gentle reader, detailing the past year and half and the sojourn into natural (i.e. without medicines) blood pressure reducing measures that I’ve discovered. This series includes the books I’ve read, the diet hacks I’ve employed, the things that I did that did not work, and ultimately what things I did that brought my high blood pressure (and cholesterol) down to healthy levels again.
Shall we say, I detail the changes I made that brought the monkey back into the examination room. *cymbal crash!*
I should have a golden medal for each of you that made it through this super-long post! So here–without any more fanfare or folderol–are the two potassium-rich smoothie recipes that I’ve been enjoying nearly every day for lunch.
Potassium-rich Smoothie recipes
I adapted these recipes from this website, whose author has also successfully lowered her blood pressure with changes in her diet.
Avocado Melon Kiwi Smoothie
(makes enough for two)
Mix together in a blender:
- 1 Avocado, peeled and chunked up
- 1 Kiwi fruit, peeled and quartered
- 1 cup Honeydew melon (peeled and chopped)
- scoop of protein powder (optional)
- 1 cup baby spinach or another green (Note: nearly all greens are high in potassium, I’ve learned, but check a nutrient data resource to be sure. I’ve added lambs’ quarters, Swiss chard, kale, and nettles, which are all potassium-rich.)
- 1 tsp raw honey, if desired
- 1 cup ice cubes
- 1 cup water or milk, to make the proper consistency
Pro tip: Prepare all the ingredients (except for the spinach and ice cubes) for a week’s worth of smoothies, and put them into individual freezer bags, and freeze! When you’re ready for a smoothie, dump the frozen ingredients into your blender, add your choice of milk or water and the cup of raw greens, and blend until smooth.
This smoothie has between 725 and 900 mg of potassium per serving in it, depending on which greens you use.
Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Blast
(makes two glasses worth)
This smoothie actually tastes a lot like an ice cream shake, especially if you top it with a little dollop of whipped cream and cinnamon. It is rich, tasty, and still has between 725 and 900 mg of potassium per serving, as well.
- 1 frozen banana
- 2 cups Milk (coconut, almond or cow’s milk)
- 2 tablespoons Peanut Butter
- 1 scoop peanut butter powder (optional)
- 1 heaping Tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 tsp honey or raw sugar (optional)
- a little whipped cream and cinnamon
That’s all for today. I would love it if you would share in the comments below if you’ve struggled with high blood pressure, and what you’ve done about it.
Come back! I’ll be sharing more tips on how to lower your blood pressure in the next couple of months.
And thank you for sharing this post with your family and friends.
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