High blood pressure: foods to avoid
Published: February 2020
If you want to lower your blood pressure, or make sure it doesn’t become high in the first place, there are certain types of food and drink you should cut down on. It’s important not to get too hung up on this, but quite modest changes can make all the difference.
The sodium contained in salt increases water retention, which in turn may raise your blood pressure. Reducing your salt intake below the maximum daily recommended allowance of 6 grammes (about a teaspoonful) is one of the most important things you can do to keep your blood pressure down, especially if it’s already high. There are several ways you can do this.
Stop sprinkling salt on your food and adding it to cooking water. If necessary, use things like herbs, spices, lemon juice, and vinegar to add piquancy. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your palate adjusts: no salt doesn’t mean no taste.
Read the label. Many processed foods, such as pizzas, crisps, and frozen ready meals, contain very high levels of sodium, even though they may not taste salty. Others, such as salted peanuts and soy sauce, are more obviously sodium rich.
Here again, processed foods are the main offenders. We all know that sugar causes obesity, but it’s also implicated in high blood pressure. It disrupts your metabolism, for example by causing your body to produce too much insulin and leptin, reducing sodium and water excretion by the kidneys and causing your blood vessels to constrict.
Again, some foods are obviously packed with sugar, others less so. For example:
Fruit juice might seem like a healthy choice, but may contain as much sugar as a non-diet soft drink.
Sports drinks, too, tend to be associated with a healthy lifestyle, but may be packed with sugar to give you instant energy.
Protein bars may contain as much sugar as a candy bar.
High-fructose corn syrup is used as a sweetener in thousands of foods. It contains two sugars, fructose and glucose, and there is strong research evidence associating it with high blood pressure.
Saturated and trans fats
Consuming too many of these increases your bad cholesterol and makes you more vulnerable to high blood pressure and heart disease. Foods containing large quantities of saturated fat include red meat, chicken skin, and full-fat dairy products such as butter.
Trans fats are most often found in packaged and prepared foods such as doughnuts and other bakery products, potato- and corn-based snacks, and frozen pizza.