Hypertension, known more commonly as high blood pressure, affects millions of people around the world. Diet has a direct impact on blood pressure levels—both high and low. Most people in the United States eat meals that result in higher blood pressure, usually due to tons of added sodium, sugar, and high fructose corn syrup. However, by making certain substitutions, keeping an eye on additives, and avoiding certain foods, it is possible to fight against high blood pressure.
Sodium is one of the many components in food that can cause a blood pressure spike. Modern foods contain so much sodium that it's easy for the average person to consume far more than nutrition experts recommend. The average person should only consume about 2,300 mg of sodium each day. Fast food and pre-packaged meals can easily contain hundreds of milligrams of sodium. Even foods and beverages that might seem healthy, such as vegetable juices, can contain large amounts of sodium.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), drinking too much alcohol can also raise a person’s blood pressure. Excessive drinking is also a major risk factor for other cardiopulmonary issues, like heart disease. Beyond this, alcoholic beverages often contain empty calories, meaning they can often contribute to unintentional weight gain. In turn, weight gain then increases blood pressure. The AHA recommends limiting alcohol consumption to one drink per day for women and two for men.
Red meats, such as beef, pork, or lamb, are among the worst foods for people with high blood pressure. While breaking down red meat, the body releases compounds that dramatically impact blood pressure levels. However, recent research indicates that red meat might not be as bad as many scientists originally believed. Regardless, it is best if people with high blood pressure limit their consumption of red meat to a few times a week.
A 2014 study indicated that, in terms of raising blood pressure, sugar may be worse than even salt. Eating too much sugar limits the body’s nitric oxide production, which is important for the expansion of blood vessels. Without nitric oxide, the blood vessels constrict, contributing to higher blood pressure. Though many people believe peanut butter is healthy, it contains natural sugars, and companies will often add more sugar to sweeten the product. A mere two tablespoons of peanut butter may account for nearly 15% of the daily amount of sugar for men and 20% for women.
Doctors will not tell people with high blood pressure to cut out their morning coffees in most circumstances. However, if blood pressure levels are a concern, it may be beneficial to limit coffee to just a cup or two a day or make the switch to decaf. Caffeine can temporarily elevate blood pressure levels, though most people would need to drink multiple cups a day for the beverage to become dangerous. However, many people like to have milk and sugar, sweeteners, or creamers with their coffee, boosting the sugar content and increasing blood pressure levels.
When it comes to a healthy diet, most people know that they should limit sodas, energy drinks, and other sugary beverages. Not only are these drinks full of both sugar and caffeine, but they also contain another potentially more dangerous ingredient. High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener that appears in everything from desserts to crackers. It also has links to a variety of health issues, including weight gain, diabetes, and high blood pressure. A small can of soda every few days is fine, but in general, it should remain an occasional treat.
The type of meat isn't the only thing that matters when it comes to blood pressure. The preparation of the meat can also play a major role. For example, sausage can have extremely high levels of sodium, as well as dangerously high amounts of saturated fats. The AHA recommends limiting saturated fat intake in general, but it is particularly important when high blood pressure is a concern. Make meals involving bacon, sausage, hamburgers, and other processed meats a once-a-week deal as much as possible.
Pretty much any list of foods to eliminate to eat healthier will include fried foods. While they may be delicious, they often contain far too much oil, tons of sodium and high levels of saturated fats. Fried desserts are particularly bad as they have additional sugar on top of everything else. Due to the prevalence of fried foods in many diets, doctors recommend eliminating one high-risk food at a time and working down to eating these foods once or twice a week.
Millions of people live in areas where fresh food is not widely available or is extremely expensive. Often, they will turn to the more affordable option: canned goods. However, canned goods aren't ideal for high blood pressure diets for several reasons. Notably, they are significantly higher in salt than other options. Eating even one can a day could lead to a dangerous level of sodium. Canned fruits may even have higher levels of sugar or high fructose corn syrup, further impacting blood pressure. However, as long as a person checks the nutrition information and avoids certain products, canned goods are an effective choice for attaining core nutrients.
For the most part, people don't consume enough of a condiment for it to have a noticeable impact on their health. However, on the journey of reducing ingredients like salt, many people compensate with condiments and sauces. Items like ketchup, soy sauce, salad dressing, and steak sauce all have high levels of sodium, and some are full of high fructose corn syrup and sugar. Replace flavor with herbs and spices rather than condiments to stay on a high blood pressure-friendly diet, as these are flavorful and may even lower blood pressure.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.