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Chinese Medicine nutritional theory combines ancient wisdom with modern science.

East Asian nutrition uses a holistic approach, which aims to balance all five flavors within most meals with one or two flavors being emphasized for therapeutic purposes. East Asian nutrition for hypertension emphasizes bitter flavors, sour flavors, and energetically-cooling foods.

Chinese Medicine theory states that bitter flavors in moderation benefit the heart — but an excess is harmful as it has a drying effect.

For example, coffee is bitter. In moderation, coffee acts as a 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.

  • Examples of foods with bitter flavors include romaine lettuce, dandelion, arugula, and rye.
  • Examples of foods that combine bitter with pungency include citrus peel, radish, scallion, and white pepper.

The pungent flavor can help disperse phlegm or what we refer to as ‘dampness’ (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.
  • Lemon rind is bitter and sour; vinegar is also bitter and sour.
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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 phytochemical phthalides which relaxes 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. Caution: according to East Asian nutritional theory, those with a lot of dryness and/or bone disease should moderate their intake of bitter flavors.

A tomato a day keeps the doctor away?

The combination of lycopene, vitamins C and E, potassium, and folic acid in tomatoes makes it a powerful food for heart health. The bitter flavor of tomatoes comes 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. Who doesn’t love homegrown tomatoes?

 

Summer is the season of the heart according to East Asian Medicine, meaning it is the season most likely to bring our hearts out of balance if we are exposed to excess heat, which can then create and/or exacerbate internal heat.

 

During the summer East Asian Nutritional Theory recommends drinking and eating foods that cool the body and heart such as green tea, cucumbers, watermelon, and lemon.

Chrysanthemum tea is a very popular summertime tea in Asia because it is so well known for its cooling properties; it is helpful for headaches, dizziness, high blood pressure, chest pain, and also fevers. You can add chrysanthemum flowers to your morning green tea and in the evening combine it with chamomile tea for extra cooling benefits!

East Asian nutrition cautions against overdoing cold foods and drinks.

Too much cold inhibits the digestive process. Drinking warm beverages and soups, as well as eating foods with a little pungency (chili pepper, garlic, ginger) causes the body to perspire slightly which naturally cools the body.

 

Those who 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 East Asian nutritional 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. Sources of healthy fats include the following: nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, flaxseed oil, and quality fish.

Eating beans, peas, and grains are high in potassium, magnesium, 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.

Try this Easy East Asian Nutrition Recipe for Heart Health:

5 Flavors Chickpea Salad for Healthy & Happy Heart

15 oz cooked organic chickpeas (1 can)
1/2 c cup cooked quinoa or 1 cup brown rice (warm)
4 stalks celery, minced
6-12 cherry tomatoes chopped in 1/2 or 1/4
8-12 Romaine lettuce leaves, chopped
2 TBSP red onion, minced

Toss with dressing made with:
2 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP lemon juice + a little lemon zest (organic is best)
1 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp raw honey
1-2 garlic cloves (minced or pressed)
1/8 tsp Himalayan or Sea salt (or to taste)
fresh ground black pepper (to taste)

Resources
https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/04/celery-may-help-bring-your-high-blood-pressure-down/

Foster, S. R., Blank, K., Hoe, L. E. S., Behrens, M., Meyerhof, W., Peart, J. N., & Thomas, W. G. (2014). Bitter taste receptor agonists elicit G-protein-dependent negative inotropy in the murine heart. The FASEB Journal, 28(10), 4497-4508.

Kastner, Joseph, MD, L.Ac, (2009) Chinese Nutrition Therapy, Thieme, Stuttgart and New York

Pitchford, Paul (2002), Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California

Ried, K., Frank, O. R., Stocks, N. P., Fakler, P., & Sullivan, T. (2008). Effect of garlic on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC cardiovascular disorders, 8(1), 1.

Willcox, J. K., Catignani, G. L., & Lazarus, S. (2003). Tomatoes and Cardiovascular Health. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 43(1), 1-18.