If you have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, you may need to make some changes in your diet to lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other complications. High blood pressure is a condition where the force of blood against your artery walls is too high, and it can damage your blood vessels over time. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg, while high blood pressure is 130/80 mm Hg or higher.
One of the main factors that can raise your blood pressure is salt, or sodium. Sodium makes your body retain more fluid, which increases the volume and pressure of your blood. The AHA recommends that people with high blood pressure limit their sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day, which is about half a teaspoon of salt. However, most Americans consume much more than that, averaging about 3,400 mg per day. This is because sodium is often hidden in many processed foods, such as canned soups, frozen meals, sauces, condiments, snacks, and fast foods.
Another factor that can affect your blood pressure is sugar, especially fructose. Fructose is a type of sugar that is found in fruits, honey, and some sweeteners, such as high fructose corn syrup. Fructose can increase your blood pressure by increasing your salt absorption, stimulating your insulin production, and promoting inflammation. The AHA advises that men limit their added sugar intake to 36 grams per day, and women to 25 grams per day. Added sugars are those that are not naturally occurring in foods, such as table sugar, honey, syrups, and sweetened beverages.
Besides salt and sugar, there are other foods and drinks that you should avoid or limit if you have high blood pressure. These include
1. Processed meats
should generally avoid or consume in moderation. These meats undergo various processes like curing, smoking, or adding preservatives, which can lead to higher sodium content and unhealthy fats. Examples of processed meats include bacon, sausages, hot dogs, deli meats, and certain types of ham.
The high sodium content in processed meats can contribute to increased blood pressure. Additionally, some processed meats might contain additives like nitrates and nitrites, which could potentially affect cardiovascular health.
If you’re managing high blood pressure, it’s advisable to limit the intake of processed meats and opt for healthier protein sources like fresh poultry, fish, lean cuts of beef or pork, tofu, beans, or legumes. When choosing deli meats or processed options, look for low-sodium varieties or try to consume them infrequently to better manage your blood pressure levels.
2. Canned soups
Canned soups can be problematic for individuals with high blood pressure due to their typically high sodium content. Many commercially available canned soups contain significant amounts of added salt or sodium-based preservatives for flavor and preservation purposes. High sodium intake is known to contribute to elevated blood pressure levels.
For someone managing hypertension, it’s essential to monitor sodium intake, and consuming canned soups regularly can significantly increase your daily sodium intake. Some canned soups contain more sodium than what is recommended for an entire day in just one serving.
3. Pickles and pickled foods
Pickles and pickled foods, while tasty, often contain high amounts of sodium due to the pickling process. This high sodium content can be concerning for individuals with high blood pressure, as excessive sodium intake can contribute to elevated blood pressure levels.
The pickling process involves preserving foods in a solution containing salt, vinegar, and sometimes sugar or other additives. This process not only enhances flavor but also acts as a preservation method. However, it significantly increases the sodium content of the food being pickled.
For individuals managing hypertension or trying to reduce their sodium intake, it’s advisable to consume pickles and pickled foods in moderation or opt for low-sodium varieties when available. Alternatively, consider preparing homemade pickled foods where you can control the amount of salt added to the pickling solution
4. Canned vegetables
Canned vegetables can be convenient, but they often contain added salt or sodium-based preservatives as a means of extending shelf life and enhancing flavor. This high sodium content can be a concern for individuals with high blood pressure, as excessive sodium intake can contribute to elevated blood pressure levels.
For people managing hypertension or looking to reduce their sodium intake, here are some considerations regarding canned vegetables:
5. Salty snacks
Salty snacks such as potato chips, pretzels, salted nuts, and certain crackers are often high in sodium content. These snacks can significantly contribute to your daily sodium intake, which can be concerning for individuals with high blood pressure or those trying to manage their sodium intake.
Excessive sodium consumption can lead to increased blood pressure levels and potentially exacerbate hypertension. Therefore, it’s advisable to limit the intake of salty snacks or choose healthier alternatives.
6. Fast food
Fast food is often high in sodium, unhealthy fats, and calories, making it a concern for individuals with high blood pressure. Regular consumption of fast food can contribute to weight gain, increased sodium intake, and elevated blood pressure levels.
7. Packaged and instant foods
Packaged and instant foods are often high in sodium, unhealthy fats, and additives, making them less than ideal for individuals with high blood pressure. These foods are designed for convenience and long shelf life but can contain excessive amounts of sodium, preservatives, and other unhealthy ingredients that can negatively impact blood pressure and overall health.
8. Frozen meals
Frozen meals, while convenient, often contain high amounts of sodium, unhealthy fats, and added preservatives, which can be concerning for individuals with high blood pressure. These meals are designed for convenience and long shelf life, but they may not be the healthiest choice for managing hypertension due to their nutritional content.
9. Sauces and condiments
Sauces and condiments can contribute to increased sodium intake, which can be problematic for individuals with high blood pressure. Many sauces and condiments, such as ketchup, soy sauce, barbecue sauce, salad dressings, and certain seasonings, contain high amounts of salt and other additives that can raise blood pressure levels.
10. Canned fish
Canned fish, such as tuna, salmon, and sardines, can be nutritious options due to their high protein and omega-3 fatty acid content. However, some varieties of canned fish can also be high in sodium, which can be a concern for individuals with high blood pressure.
11. Canned beans
Canned beans are a convenient and nutritious food choice, but their sodium content can vary depending on how they’re processed and prepared. While beans are a great source of fiber, protein, and various nutrients, including potassium which is beneficial for managing blood pressure, canned varieties can sometimes contain added salt for preservation purposes.
12. Baked goods
Commercially baked goods like pastries and muffins often contain unhealthy fats and high amounts of sodium. Baked goods, such as pastries, cakes, cookies, and commercially produced bread, can contribute to high blood pressure due to several factors.
13. Full-fat dairy products
Full-fat dairy products, such as whole milk, cheese, butter, and cream, contain saturated fats, which may potentially contribute to high blood pressure and cardiovascular health issues if consumed excessively.
14. Red meat
Red meat, including beef, pork, and lamb, can potentially contribute to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues due to several reasons.
15. Excessive alcohol
Excessive alcohol consumption can have various effects on the body, including potential impacts on blood pressure. While moderate alcohol intake may not significantly affect blood pressure for some individuals, excessive or heavy drinking can lead to hypertension and other cardiovascular issues.
16. Sugar-sweetened beverages
Sugar-sweetened beverages, such as sodas, sweetened teas, energy drinks, and certain fruit drinks, can negatively impact blood pressure and overall health, particularly in individuals with hypertension.
17. Canned or bottled tomato products
Canned or bottled tomato products, such as tomato sauce, tomato paste, and canned tomatoes, can be convenient additions to meals. However, some of these products might contain added salt or sodium for flavor enhancement or preservation, which can be a concern for individuals with high blood pressure.
18. White bread and refined grains
White bread and refined grains are examples of highly processed carbohydrates that can potentially impact blood pressure, especially when consumed in excess.
19. Excessive caffeine
Excessive caffeine intake may potentially affect blood pressure, particularly in sensitive individuals or those predisposed to high blood pressure.
20. High-sodium condiments
High-sodium condiments are those that contain elevated levels of salt or sodium. Regular consumption of these condiments can contribute to increased sodium intake, potentially affecting blood pressure, especially in individuals with hypertension.