High Blood Pressure Awareness Month was observed last month, a time when good-intentioned people undertook new diet regimens, hoping to improve their health and possibly prolong their lives. The event, sponsored annually by the American Heart Assn., is a public-education campaign designed to increase public awareness of the disease through handouts and media blitzes.
There are, however, some people for whom watching calorie intake, cutting back on fat, salt and alcohol and getting more exercise is a daily ritual, essentially because their lives depend upon it.
When Lionel Williams suffered a slight stroke and doctors diagnosed him hypertensive, he still wasn't convinced of the seriousness of his illness, so he, like many other hypertensive patients, didn't watch his diet and didn't take his medicine.
"I thought I could do without it. I wanted to continue working. . . .I pushed myself, not knowing that the pressure was there, and before I knew it it hit me again," Williams said.
But that was 13 years ago. Today, he takes his medicine, gets some exercise and follows the "Three Bs": broiling, boiling and baking. He has changed his life style and abandoned his Kansas City style of cooking--he's not frying and using as much salt or cured pork products. Cooking today for Williams is lighter, and his doctor is delighted with the results.
Williams, 64, is one of the members of the Betty Hill Senior Citizens Center in Los Angeles, where members gather for a variety of activities, including weekly blood pressure monitoring by health care professionals and trained center volunteers. The seniors also spend time learning more about the silent killer--how to take their own and anyone else's blood pressure readings and how to change permanently their life styles to control the disease.
Accelerated blood pressure is a disease associated with heredity, obesity, alcohol intake, lack of exercise and nutrition. There is no cure, although it is treated with medication. There are no symptoms, and it appears in young and old alike. Historically, blacks have suffered a disproportionately higher rate of occurrence of the disease. A blood pressure of 140/90 or above is the criterion for defining hypertension.
A 1983 survey conducted by the California Department of Health indicated that 29% of the black adults surveyed were hypertensives, whereas the prevalence of the disease for white adults was 26%. In the 18-to 49-year age group, 12.3% of the adults surveyed, black and white, had hypertension. In the 50-plus age group, 48% had hypertension. What's worse is that 41% of those with hypertension hadn't been diagnosed.
The data reflected in this study suggests that although public knowledge of the facts about high blood pressure has increased since a previous poll in 1979, ". . . a reduction in the number of hypertensives who have their blood pressure under control. . ." has not occurred.
There are, however, many black people like Williams who are on the road to recovery. They are preparing food in the home and selecting those items on restaurant menus with a watchful eye on fat and sodium. They've begun modernizing the hand-me-down recipes their ancestors created. Recipes for soul food are being scaled down, lightened and brightened up to better serve the needs of a health-conscious audience.
Inherent soul foods like greens and other vegetables, which traditionally have been heavily seasoned with cured pork, are out among this new trendy breed of cooks. Fresh steamed vegetables and vegetable combinations are in.
Of course, there are still some cooks who offer down-home versions of Southern specialties--black-eyed peas with ham hocks or fatback and chitterlings. But with increasing concern for health, diet and weight, many black cooks have opted to abandon the rib-sticking style created by their ancestors and are incorporating more artistic and healthful techniques to their methodology.
Some alternatives: Instead of country fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, try this Country French Chicken Potato Salad. This combination of red-skinned potatoes, cooked chicken, red onion, green pepper and sliced mushrooms in a tasty creamy garlic dressing is hearty enough to stand on its own as a meal-in-one when served on a bed of salad greens with crusty bread, but light enough to qualify as a skinny salad.
Another fatty old favorite, meat loaf, is slimmed down when ground turkey is substituted for ground beef in Cajun Meat Loaf. Cajun seasonings, including cumin, red pepper flakes, green pepper and garlic, contribute to the Southern flavor.
It's easy to forget about fried fish and chips when elegant Citrus Flounder Roll-Ups and Vegetable Pancakes With Tomato-Chive Sauce are on the menu. Delicious rolls of flaky fish are stuffed with romaine lettuce and smothered in a light creamy sauce made with low-sodium chicken broth to give a rich creamy entree without all the salt. The tomato-chive sauce also uses low-sodium soup. A dash of hot pepper sauce and chives give it a kick.
Finally, if you think a low-fat, low-sodium dessert is an impossibility, think again. This Marble Cake is made with a smidgen of oil, skim milk and egg whites, instead of the usual version, and it doesn't sacrifice appearance, texture or taste.
To decrease the amount of fat and sodium in your own recipes, try substituting low-fat, low-sodium prepared products for traditional ingredients, use no salt at the table, reduce the amount of salt called for in recipes, substitute herbs and spices as flavorings, use salty ingredients sparingly and read labels for sodium information.
For more information on high blood pressure, contact the American Heart Assn., 800-HEART LA, Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The hot line is staffed by trained cardiovascular professionals. A Spanish-speaking service is offered Wednesday and Friday mornings.
COUNTRY FRENCH CHICKEN POTATO SALAD
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash white pepper
1/2 cup oil
1 pound new potatoes
2 cups cubed, cooked chicken
1/3 cup sliced red onion
1 (4 1/2-ounce) jar sliced mushrooms, drained
1 green pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 head leaf lettuce
Combine lemon juice, eggs, garlic, salt and pepper in blender or food processor. Blend about 1 minute or until smooth. Add oil in slow steady stream while continuing to blend until smooth. Chill.
Cook unpeeled potatoes in boiling water 20 to 25 minutes or until tender. Drain, cool and cut into quarters.
Combine potatoes, chicken, onion, mushrooms, green pepper and dressing. Chill. Arrange tomatoes, lettuce leaves and potato salad on individual salad plates. Makes 5 servings.
PER SERVING: 310 calories; 19 gm protein; 24 gm carbohydrate; 15 gm fat; 340 mg sodium; 680 mg potassium.
Protein 30% Riboflavin 10% Vitamin A 15% Niacin 35% Vitamin C 110% Calcium 02% Thiamine 10% Iron 10%
2 1/2 cups unsifted flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup hot water
5 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 cup skim milk
3 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
Combine flour, baking powder and salt on sheet of wax paper and set aside. Combine cocoa and hot water in custard cup. Stir until cocoa dissolves. Set aside.
In large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar, beating until stiff.
In another bowl, combine milk, oil, vanilla, almond extract and remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Stir in reserved flour mixture. Fold in beaten egg whites. Remove 2 cups batter. Stir reserved cocoa mixture into remaining batter in bowl.
Spoon white and chocolate batter alternately into 12-cup bundt pan sprayed with non-stick coating spray. Bake at 350 degrees until wood pick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Remove from pan onto wire rack. Cool completely. Makes 12 servings.
PER SERVING: 218 calories; 6 gm protein; 41 gm carbohydrate; 4 gm fat; 227 mg sodium; 105 mg potassium.
Protein 09% Riboflavin 12% Vitamin A 00% Niacin 08% Vitamin C 00% Calcium 09% Thiamine 13% Iron 06%
CAJUN MEAT LOAF
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 pounds ground turkey
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried sage leaves
1 green pepper, diced
4 ounces Cheddar cheese, sliced
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced
Saute onions and garlic in hot oil. Combine bread crumbs, turkey, egg, parsley, tomato sauce, cumin, red pepper flakes, thyme, sage and green pepper in bowl. Add onions and garlic.
Place half of meat mixture in non-stick loaf pan. Arrange half of Cheddar and mozzarella cheeses over meat mixture. Fill pan with remaining meat mixture, then top with remaining cheeses. Bake at 350 degrees 1 1/2 hours. Makes 8 servings.
PER SERVING: 372 calories; 45 gm protein; 7 gm carbohydrate; 17 gm fat; 540 mg sodium; 563 mg potassium.
Protein 69% Riboflavin 22% Vitamin A 23% Niacin 46% Vitamin C 39% Calcium 24% Thiamine 07% Iron 17%
WARM SPINACH-CHICKEN SALAD
3 cups torn spinach leaves, firmly packed
3 slices red onion, halved
1 orange, peeled, sliced and halved
1 (4 1/2-ounce) jar whole mushrooms, drained
2 tablespoons oil
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 whole chicken breast, cut into thin strips
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Combine spinach, onion, orange and mushrooms.
Heat oil in medium skillet. Add walnuts, chicken and ginger. Saute, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer pink. Stir in orange juice and white wine vinegar. Heat thoroughly. Spoon over salad in bowl and toss. Serve immediately. Makes 3 servings.
PER SERVING: 290 calories; 20 gm protein; 13 gm carbohydrate; 18 gm fat; 180 mg sodium; 670 mg potassium.
Protein 30% Riboflavin 15% Vitamin A 80% Niacin 35% Vitamin C 80% Calcium 10% Thiamine 10% Iron 15%
CITRUS FLOUNDER ROLL-UPS
4 romaine lettuce leaves
4 green onions
2 large flounder or sole fillets, about 6 ounces each
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons thawed frozen orange juice concentrate
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves, crushed
1 (10 1/2-ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth
Bring 4 quarts water to boil in 5-quart saucepan. Add lettuce leaves and cook 30 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Add green onions to pan and cook 1 minute. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Trim thick stem portion from each lettuce leaf with tip of knife. Trim root ends from green onions. Cut each fish fillet in half horizontally. Top each piece with lettuce leaf and roll up. Place each roll cut-side down. Tie each with 1 green onion. Set aside.
Melt butter in 10-inch skillet. Stir in flour, orange juice concentrate, lemon juice and tarragon until smooth. Gradually stir in broth. Cook until mixture boils and thickens, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low. Arrange fish rolls in sauce. Cover and simmer 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with fork. Remove fish to platter, spoon sauce around fish and serve. Makes 4 servings.
PER SERVING: 138 calories; 10 gm protein; 10 gm carbohydrate; 6 gm fat; 103 mg sodium; 366 mg potassium.
Protein 15% Riboflavin 06% Vitamin A 23% Niacin 09% Vitamin C 43% Calcium 06% Thiamine 07% Iron 08%
VEGETABLE PANCAKES WITH TOMATO-CHIVE SAUCE
1 (10 1/2-ounce) can low-sodium tomato soup with tomato pieces
2 tablespoons chopped chives
2 teaspoons wine vinegar
Dash hot pepper sauce
2 cups peeled, julienne-cut potatoes
1/2 cup julienne-cut carrots
1/2 cup julienne-cut zucchini
1/2 cup grated red onion
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
Stir soup, 1 tablespoon chives, vinegar and hot pepper sauce together in bowl. Set aside.
Wrap potatoes, carrots and zucchini in clean towel or cheesecloth and squeeze towel to remove excess moisture. Combine in large bowl with onion and eggs. Add flour and remaining 1 tablespoon chives. Toss to mix well.
Heat oil in 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat. For each pancake, drop vegetable mixture by 1/4 cup into hot skillet, making 4 pancakes at a time. With spatula, flatten each pancake to 4-inch round. Cook until golden, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Keep warm. Repeat with remaining mixture. Serve with tomato-chive sauce. Makes 6 servings, 2 pancakes each.
PER SERVING: 156 calories; 4 gm protein; 18 gm carbohydrate; 7 gm fat; 34 mg sodium; 319 mg potassium.
Protein 06% Riboflavin 08% Vitamin A 34% Niacin 09% Vitamin C 38% Calcium 03% Thiamine 08% Iron 07%