Beating high blood pressure with food !
High blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the first signs of heart disease. Left untreated, hypertension can damage your arteries and lead to serious complications like a heart attack.
If your blood pressure remains high over a sustained period, your doctor might prescribe medication to lower it. But even if you take blood pressure medication, you also should work on reducing hypertension by avoiding specific types of foods.
These are the foods to avoid with high blood pressure to keep your heart healthy and lower your risk of heart attack or stroke.
1. Table salt
Salt is one of the most problematic ingredients for people with high blood pressure, and it’s important to make sure you don’t eat too much of it. This may seem easy enough, but salt is quite hard to avoid.
Salt tops the list of foods to avoid with hypertension.
Sodium increases the amount of fluid in your blood, which raises your blood pressure. You should not add any type of salt to your food if you have high blood pressure. No added salt can be considered healthy for a person with high blood pressure.
Tip: Instead, try seasoning your food with flavorful, salt-free herbs and spices. Food may taste bland when you first put down the salt shaker, but your palate will adapt quickly.
2. Salty Snacks
High on the list of high blood pressure foods to avoid lies the salty snacks group. Not only does the high sodium level of these snacks increase hypertension, but their fattiness contributes to weight gain and poor heart health.
Tip: When you must appease that craving for a crisp, salty snack, try eating small portions of low-sodium varieties instead. You also can substitute small servings of unsalted or lightly salted nuts, which provide more nutrition than chips.
3. Cured meats
While cured meats can be really tasty, it’s best to avoid them.
Processed meats not only contain excessive amounts of sodium, but they’re usually very fatty and contribute to poor overall health. Before you buy any type of prepared meat—whether Ham, bacon and deli meats are often prepared by soaking them in a brine bath made with saltwater and spices.
Watch out when you go out to eat, and especially when you’re making a sandwich. Sandwiches are high in salt because bread, cheese, condiments, and deli meat all have salt. It is quite easy for one sub or sandwich to have over 2,000 mg of salt.
Tip: Read the label on packaged lunch meats to view the sodium information. Also, look up the nutrition information for the brand of deli meat your local counter slices so you can make appropriate choices before you build that next sandwich.
4. Canned foods
Many canned vegetables, soups, and other food products are prepared with lots of salt for taste and to preserve the food. Frozen is ok too, but watch for added salt and butter and pick the plain vegetable packs. If you don’t have access to fresh vegetables (or you don’t have time to prepare them), you may reach for the frozen versions instead.
Tip: If you do need to use canned vegetables, you can buy the “no salt added” kind or rinse the vegetables before eating to get rid of the extra salt. Similarly, canned tuna is also often high in salt, so I advise giving that a rinse as well.
Anyone with hypertension would do well to monitor their sugar intake. Studies of people with diabetes show some correlation between excessive sugar consumption and increased blood pressure. Even if you don’t have diabetes, avoiding added sugar in your diet is a smart decision. To start, avoid soft drinks and canned fruit in syrup.
Tip: Read labels to learn the total sugars contained in a packaged product. Aim to keep your sugar consumption at a minimum, and you may see your blood pressure numbers fall.
Avoid the consumption of alcohol while following a strict high blood pressure diet.
Currently, the American Heart Association recommends people with hypertension avoid excessive alcohol consumption—and that includes red wine.
If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to two drinks per day or fewer. Remember that alcohol of any kind also might interact with heart medications you take, so talk with your doctor or pharmacist before you hoist that next pint of beer.
Tip: In unavoidable social situations, hold on to your glass and just do not sip it. Make that one glass last for the entire meal and your head will thank you for the next day.
7. Caffeine and Energy Drinks
Caffeine from any source causes the blood vessels to constrict, which can raise blood pressure. Coffee, energy drinks, sodas, teas—the list of caffeine-containing beverages is long. Before you consume any beverages that aren’t 100% water, read the label to review the caffeine information. Even sugar-free sodas can still contain caffeine, so choose carefully. Energy drinks without caffeine may not be a good choice, either, since some of them are loaded with sugar.
Tip: To improve your energy levels, try exercising regularly instead. It’s better for your overall heart health too.
8. Sauces and condiments
When I tell people to avoid table salt, they often reach for condiments instead—like ketchup, steak sauce, soy sauce, barbeque sauce, or salad dressings. But, if you look at their ingredients, you’ll quickly notice that they have a lot of salt in them, too! Even red and white sauces in Italian dishes have lots of salt, and so does gravy. I call this “hidden salt.”
9. High-fat foods & Processed foods
While high-fat foods may not directly raise your blood pressure, they can pose other problems, like raising your risk for high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. The mixture of hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol can dramatically increase your risk of heart problems.
Similarly, processed foods carry lots of salt. This includes some frozen products, like frozen dinners and pizzas. My best advice here is to avoid these foods in favour of freshly prepared dishes.
Tip: If you have no other choice, look for low-salt or low-sodium versions. Some brands make healthier products for people with hypertension and heart disease. Those products will have the AHA logo printed on them and will have little to no salt added.
Herbs & Spices Suggested dishes to use
Basil Soups, salads, vegetables, fish, and meats
Cinnamon Salads, vegetables, breads, and snacks
Chili powder Soups, salads, vegetables, and fish
Cloves Soups, salads, and vegetables
Dill weed and dill seed Soups, salads, vegetables, and fish
Ginger Soups, salads, and vegetables, and meats
Marjoram Soups, salads, vegetables, beef, fish & chicken
Nutmeg Vegetables, meats, and snacks
Oregano Soups, salads, vegetables, meats, and snacks
Parsley Salads, vegetables, fish, and meats
Rosemary Salads, vegetables, fish, and meats
Sage Salads, vegetables, fish, and meats & chicken
Thyme Salads, vegetables, fish, and chicken
If this is a challenge for you, talk to your healthcare provider about referring you to a nutritionist who can help you explore healthy options and cooking tips.
By Priyanshi Bhatnagar