Heart healthy tips for Hypertension Awareness Month

(Alexes Papadopoli is the Registered Dietitian at both Brown’s Your Independent Grocer Stittsville and Loblaws Kanata)

May is Hypertension Awareness Month and a great reminder for us to check in on our heart health. Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is the most common heart health issue that often goes undetected, but simple lifestyle changes and regular blood pressure monitoring can help lower your risk. While your family doctor and local pharmacists are great resources, how we nourish our bodies can also positively affect our heart health.

As your local Registered Dietitian, here are my top nutrition tips for taking care of your heart.

Add heart healthy foods – Nutrition is a big factor in heart health but making any changes to our lifestyle can feel daunting. One tip I like to share to make it easier is to look at what you can add to your diet, instead of focusing on what should be removed or minimized. Adding in foods with more heart-healthy nutrients will naturally “shift” your overall intake in a positive direction without depriving yourself of foods you enjoy. For example, a great way to start is by adding a plant-based meal to your dinner line up once a week. Plant based proteins are a great addition to a heart-healthy lifestyle as they contain fibre, protein, and little to no saturated fats.

Not all fats increase your risk of heart disease – Fat can be broken into three main categories: trans, saturated and unsaturated. Canada’s Food Guide recommends limiting your intake of trans fats and certain saturated fats, as research has shown that excess consumption of these fats can be linked to heart disease. These fats are primarily found in ultraprocessed convenience foods such as baked goods and fried foods. Unsaturated fats are protective of your cardiovascular system, as they can help lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise your “good” HDL cholesterol. Nuts and seeds, avocados, plant-based oils and fatty fish are all great sources of unsaturated fats.

Fibre is heart healthy – Another nutrient that’s important for a healthy heart is fibre. Fibre can also be divided into subcategories: insoluble and soluble. Soluble fibre dissolves in water, acting like a gel, and can help lower cholesterol and reduce fat absorption. Good sources of soluble fibre are oat bran, barley, legumes (peas, beans, lentils) and chia or flax seeds. Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water but helps keep us regular and promotes a healthy digestive system. Sources include nuts, whole grains, vegetables and fruits. It’s important to include both forms of fibre in our diet, however soluble fibre is especially recommended for its heart health benefits. Try to aim for 10g of soluble fibre per day.

If you find yourself needing additional help eating for your heart, I am here to help. As your local Registered Dietitian at Brown’s Your Independent Grocer and Loblaws Kanata I can work with you one-on-one to develop a unique and easy to follow plan. To book a virtual appointment with me, or one of my Ottawa Dietitian Team colleagues, go to yourindependentgrocer.ca/dietitians.

(Grilled Pico de Gallo Shrimp)

Grilled Pico de Gallo Shrimp


  • 1 pkg (400 g) Raw Zipperback Black Tiger Shrimp
  • 1 tbsp 100% Pure Safflower Oil
  • 1/2 tsp Ground coriander
  • 1/2 cup Pico de Gallo Mild Salsa
  • 1/2 tsp Ground cumin


  1. Peel shrimp, leaving tails on. Toss shrimp, oil, cumin, coriander and 1/4 cup of the pico de gallo in bowl, stirring until coated. Cover and chill for 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat barbecue to medium-high.
  3. Place shrimp on grill; cook 3 to 4 minutes per side or until golden-pink and cooked through. Place in clean serving bowl; toss with remaining pico de gallo. If desired, garnish with lime wedges and coriander sprigs. Serve hot.

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