Eating for High BP and Cholesterol, Smoked Salmon and Cancer Risk, Star Fruit

Eating for High BP and Cholesterol, Smoked Salmon and Cancer Risk, Star Fruit

Q: It seems overwhelming to think about what I can eat to address high cholesterol, high blood pressure and the need to lose weight. Where do I start?
Q: Do smoked salmon and other smoked fish pose the concern for cancer risk that smoked meats do?
Q: How do you serve the fruit known as “star fruit”? Should it be peeled?

Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: It seems overwhelming to think about what I can eat to address high cholesterol, high blood pressure and the need to lose weight. Where do I start?

A: Try not to think of this as three separate problems because many of the adjustments in your lifestyle that address one problem will end up helping your other concerns as well. You might start by looking at your physical activity, since getting at least 30 minutes a day of moderate activity like brisk walking can bring improvements in all three areas. But don’t let that seem like an excuse to allow unhealthy eating! Focus on making relatively unprocessed plant foods the majority of your eating all through the day. Include vegetables, fruits and whole grains that are not loaded with sodium or fat in your meals and snacks. That will add potassium and limit sodium for your blood pressure, provide fiber with little unhealthy fat for your heart and let you fill up on fewer calories to make weight control easier. If you are overweight, dropping even 15 or 20 pounds can improve blood pressure and blood cholesterol, so cutting a few hundred calories a day from soft drinks, sweets or excessive food portions can make a big difference. Start with basic changes like this and don’t worry about other details – it’s more important to keep focused on a few steps without getting sidetracked trying to eat perfectly. The bonus: This lifestyle will lower your risk of cancer, too!

Q: Do smoked salmon and other smoked fish pose the concern for cancer risk that smoked meats do?

A: Smoked meat, poultry and seafood are a concern because they may contain carcinogens called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). When wood or coal burns PAHs form, and food exposed to the smoke tends to absorb some of the PAHs. Awareness of this problem is growing, and processors are working on ways to decrease PAH exposure in smoking. Several years ago, Europe instituted regulations limiting the PAH content in foods. Recent studies show that adjustments in the smoking process can reduce PAH content in smoked fish. However, these practices are not yet the norm. Furthermore, the content of healthful omega-3 fat in fish like salmon is substantially lower when smoked than in the fresh product. Fish offers several nutritional advantages over red meats, but for now it would be wise to choose the smoked seafood only occasionally.

Q: How do you serve the fruit known as “star fruit”? Should it be peeled?

A: Star fruit is named for its shape: Five deep ridges that run the length of the fruit mean that when you slice it crosswise to serve, the slices are shaped like stars. Star fruit don’t require any peeling or seeding; just wash well with water and slice into those pretty stars, or eat out of hand. Sliced star fruit is terrific in fruit or vegetable salads or to accompany most seafood and poultry (either raw or quickly sautéed). A small-sized fruit (about 3 inches long) gives about three-quarters of a cup of slices with only 25 calories, while serving as an excellent source of vitamin C (about 25 milligrams) and providing 2 grams of fiber. Star fruit has a pleasant crisp texture and sweet-tart flavor. Narrow ribbed fruits tend to be more tart, while those with thick fleshy ribs tend to be sweeter. If the fruit is green, let it ripen at room temperature until the skin is a glossy yellow and the fruit gives off the full floral-fruity aroma that lets you know the flavor is at its best. Once ripe, refrigerate if you plan to keep it more than another day or two.