We all know that high blood pressure is an issue most of the time in cardiac diseases, so we are learning about nutrition for healthy blood pressure along with healthy recipes.
McALLEN — People gathered around display tables Saturday as they created their own spice blends as a good cooking alternative to salt, which is among the principle points taught here at the McAllen Public Library where Rio Grande Valley residents learned about healthier living.
In attempts to raise awareness for a healthy heart during American Heart Month, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in partnership with the McAllen Public Library hosted “Healthy Cooking, Healthy Heart,” to promote healthier living. Throughout the three-day course, Valley residents learned about the benefits of changing one’s diet.
Dr. Andrea Valdez of AgriLife explained that the goal of the course is to teach residents about the effects of high quantities of sodium in food and healthier alternatives.
“We all know that high blood pressure is an issue most of the time in cardiac diseases, so we are learning about nutrition for healthy blood pressure along with healthy recipes,” Valdez said adding that throughout the course she created demos of healthy foods one can try, such as a black bean salsa with pineapple, beef stuffed pasta and Mediterranean chicken and pasta salad.
Through the use of this course, she hopes to raise people’s awareness of sodium intake. She explained that American dietary guidelines recommend about 2,300 milligrams of salt a day for adults.
In order to limit the amount of salt used in meals, Valdez explained how certain spices such as oregano, dried parsley and others can help replace salt while still adding flavor.
“Experiment with fresh vegetables, fresh herbs and spices to combat that flavor in your cooking,” Valdez said. “That can really help offset some of the sodium.”
Not only did attendees learn about healthy salt levels but they also learned about certain foods to avoid when grocery shopping.
“I recommend, first off when you get to the grocery stores, really shop on the outsides. That’s where the healthier food is going to be — your produce, your meats and proteins, and some of your frozen foods.” Valdez explained, adding that it’s best to avoid the interior aisle where all the processed foods with high sodium levels are stocked.
It is teaching me about healthy cooking, healthy diet and healthy living especially as I am now older.
Veronica Champion, a 56-year-old McAllen resident, attended the course with her sisters as a way of taking a step forward towards a healthier lifestyle.
“I do have high blood pressure, so I’m trying to make sure that I maintain it,” Champion said, adding that the classes taught her a lot about different spices, reading nutritional labels and percentages of sodium in certain foods. “I wanted to come and learn a little bit more about substitution, doing different things to lower that blood pressure and keep me healthy a bit longer.”
She explained that knowing which areas to avoid at a grocery store has given her a different perspective on how different foods, especially processed foods, affect her.
“I know when you’re trying to buy healthy it is very expensive, but I think in the long run it is worth it,” Champion said.
Alicia Maldonado, 31, a McAllen resident, attended the classes with her husband. She explained that she and her husband prioritize eating healthy to avoid issues such as blood pressure and diabetes.
“We’re trying to eat more at home because of the health benefits and budgeting,” Maldonado said. “We’re trying to change those habits. Now we are going shopping more regularly and trying to meal plan, and just trying to buy less quantity of the stuff that might go to waste.”
She explained that her biggest takeaway from the classes is being able to understand and read the nutritional labels that will help her avoid high-sodium products.
Norma Canales, 69, a native of Mission, also attended the class in hopes of changing her eating habits.
“This class is super helpful for me,” Canales said. “It is teaching me about healthy cooking, healthy diet and healthy living especially as I am now older.”
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