Eating With High Blood Pressure: Foods And Drinks To Avoid
Diet can have a big impact on your blood pressure, which is the force of your blood against the walls of your blood vessels.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects 47 percent of U.S. adults. Hypertension can cause health problems over time, including heart disease and stroke.
Salty foods in particular can cause high blood pressure. When you eat salt, your body retains more fluids, raising your blood volume and pressure. Sugary foods and foods high in saturated fats can also increase blood pressure.
On the other hand, eating a heart-healthy diet can help you reach and maintain a healthy blood pressure.
If you have high blood pressure, the American Heart Association (AHA) advises eating plenty of:
- lean protein
- whole grains
At the same time, the AHA recommends limiting foods that can keep your blood pressure elevated, such as:
- red meat
- salt (sodium)
- foods and drinks that contain added sugars
One heart-healthy eating plan is the DASH diet, which the AHA recommends to help manage blood pressure. DASH stands for “dietary approaches to stop hypertension” and was created in the 1990s.
The diet aims to include 4,700 milligrams (mg) of potassium daily while reducing sodium, which helps lower blood pressure. Studies indicate that the diet is effective, with a 2020 research review finding that it reduced blood pressure in people with hypertension as well as in those without the condition.
The DASH diet involves eating:
- fruits, such as apples, bananas, and strawberries
- vegetables, such as broccoli, green beans, and carrots
- nuts, such as almonds and walnuts
- legumes and seeds, such as kidney beans, lentils, and sunflower seeds
- whole grains, such as whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and oatmeal
- low fat dairy, such as fat-free milk and reduced fat cheese
- lean protein, such as skinless chicken or fish
The number of servings of each food depends on your daily calorie requirements.
On the other hand, the plan limits:
- foods high in saturated fats, such as fatty meats and palm oil
- sugar-sweetened beverages
- sugary foods, such as maple syrup, candy, and jelly
It also sets a maximum intake of 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
Foods To Avoid
Whether or not you follow a particular diet, certain foods and ingredients may raise your blood pressure or help keep it high. Limiting these foods may help manage your blood pressure.
Salt Or Sodium
Salt, or specifically the sodium in salt, is a major contributor to high blood pressure and heart disease. This is because of how it affects fluid balance in the blood.
Table salt is around 40 percent sodium. Some amount of salt is important for health, but it’s easy to eat too much. The AHA recommends getting no more than 2,300 mg of sodium — the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of salt — each day.
Most of the sodium in the American diet comes from packaged, processed food rather than what you add at the table. Sodium may be hidden in unexpected places.
The following foods, known as the “salty six,” are major contributors to people’s daily salt intake:
- breads and rolls
- cold cuts and cured meats
- burritos and tacos
Processed deli and lunch meats are often packed with sodium. That’s because manufacturers cure, season, and preserve these meats with salt.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) database, just two slices of bologna contain 910 mg of sodium. One frankfurter, or hot dog, contains 567 mg .
Adding other high salt foods, such as bread, cheese, various condiments, and pickles, means that a sandwich can easily become very high in sodium.
The combination of ingredients in frozen pizzas means they’re high in sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. Frozen pizza can have especially high levels of sodium.
Cheese is often high in sodium. Just two slices of American cheese contain 512 mg of sodium. This is generally in combination with a salty or sugary pizza dough and crust, cured meats, and tomato sauce.
To maintain flavor in the pizza once it’s been cooked, manufacturers often add a lot of salt.
One 12-inch pepperoni pizza, cooked from frozen, contains 3,140 mg of sodium, which is well above the daily limit of 2,300 mg.
As a substitute, try making pizza at home, using homemade dough, low sodium cheese, and your favorite vegetables as toppings.
Preserving any food requires salt. It stops the food from decaying and keeps it edible for longer.
The longer vegetables sit in canning and preserving liquids, the more sodium they pick up.
One small pickled cucumber contains 448 mg of sodium.
That said, reduced sodium options are available.
Canned soups are simple and easy to prepare, especially when you’re crunched for time or not feeling well.
However, canned soups are high in sodium. Canned and packaged broths and stocks may contain similar amounts. This means they can elevate your blood pressure.
One can of tomato soup contains 1,110 mg of sodium, while a can of chicken and vegetable soup contains 2,140 mg.
Try choosing low or reduced sodium soups instead or make your own soup at home from fresh ingredients.
Canned Tomato Products
Most canned tomato sauces, pasta sauces, and tomato juices are high in sodium. This means they can raise your blood pressure, especially if you already have high blood pressure.
One serving (135 grams) of marinara sauce contains 566 mg of sodium. One cup of tomato juice contains 615 mg.
You can find low or reduced sodium versions for most tomato products.
To lower your blood pressure, choose these alternatives or use fresh tomatoes, which are rich in an antioxidant called lycopene. Fresh vegetables have many heart-healthy benefits.
Sugar can increase your blood pressure in several ways.
Research indicates that sugar — and especially sugar-sweetened drinks — contributes to weight gain in adults and children. Overweight and obesity increases the chance of having high blood pressure.
Added sugar may also have a direct effect on increasing blood pressure, though more research is needed.
One 2019 study in females with high blood pressure reported that decreasing sugar by 2.3 teaspoons could result in an 8.4 mm Hg drop in systolic and a 3.7 mm Hg drop in diastolic blood pressure.
The AHA recommends the following daily added sugar limits:
The AHA recommends the following daily added sugar limits:
- 6 teaspoons, or 25 grams, for females
- 9 teaspoons, or 36 grams, for males
Processed Foods With Trans Or Saturated Fat
To keep the heart healthy, it’s best to reduce saturated fats and avoid trans fats. This is especially true for people with high blood pressure.
Trans fats are artificial fats that increase packaged foods’ shelf life and stability.
However, eating them raises LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol levels, which can increase the risk of hypertension.
Saturated fats also increase the levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood.
Trans fats are especially harmful for your health and are linked to poor heart health, including an increased risk of:
- heart disease
- type 2 diabetes
Packaged, pre-prepared foods often contain trans fats and saturated fats, alongside high amounts of sugar, sodium, and low fiber carbohydrates.
Saturated fats are mostly found in animal products, including:
- full fat milk and cream
- red meat
- chicken skin
The AHA recommends reducing intake of both saturated and trans fats to help keep the heart healthy.
One way to reduce your saturated fat intake is to replace some animal foods with plant-based alternatives.
Many plant-based foods contain healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Examples of plant-based foods include:
- olive oil
According to a 2015 study, full-fat dairy doesn’t raise blood pressure.
- Drinking too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure.
- If you have high blood pressure, your doctor might recommend that you reduce the amount of alcohol you drink. Research from 2017 found a link between drinking less alcohol and lowering blood pressure among people who usually had more than two drinks each day.
- In people who do not have hypertension, limiting alcohol intake may help reduce their risk of developing high blood pressure.
- Alcohol can also prevent blood pressure medications that you may be taking from working effectively through drug interactions.
- In addition, many alcoholic drinks are high in sugar and calories. Drinking alcohol can contribute to overweight and obesity, which can increase the risk of hypertension.
- If you drink, the AHA recommends limiting your alcohol intake to two drinks per day for males and one drink per day for females.
- If cutting back on alcohol is difficult, speak with a doctor for advice.
Foods To Eat
Eating heart-healthy foods can actively reduce your blood pressure, both in the short and long term. In general, these include:
- whole grains
- fish and poultry
- nuts and legumes
Research suggests that specific foods and minerals may also help with blood pressure.
For example, studies indicate that potassium reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension, because potassium offsets the effects of sodium.
Foods that contain nitrates can reduce blood pressure, too, including beets and pomegranate juice. These foods also contain other heart-healthy components, including antioxidants and fiber.
When choosing canned or processed foods, opt for reduced sodium, no sodium, or no salt added options.
The foods you eat can affect your blood pressure, both positively and negatively.
Foods high in salt, sugar, and saturated or trans fats can increase blood pressure and damage your heart health. By limiting these foods and replacing them with healthy options, you can keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.
A diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help keep your heart healthy.
Kimberly Holland is a freelance health, travel, and lifestyle writer and editor living in Birmingham, AL.
Printed courtesy of Healthline.