When I decided to write this blog post about what foods to avoid with high blood pressure, it didn’t take much to compile a pretty long list. One of the favorite parts of my work day is visiting the nutritionist at the medical center where I work. When I told her I was picking her brain to do more research on this article, she knew there’d be many more visits. I’m very passionate about any topic that can cause high blood pressure and food is no exception.
Many things can raise your blood pressure but for me food seems to be a more significant factor than the others. Nutrition is one of the main ways to battle high blood pressure (resource). Food is something that everyone needs to keep under control if they want to maintain a normal blood pressure. Excess sugar, sodium and unhealthy fats can result in blood pressure numbers that make you cringe.
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25 Foods to Avoid With High Blood Pressure
1. Take Out Chinese Food
I think most of us have had take out Chinese food. Especially on a Friday night after a long day at work. It’s easy, fast, tastes good and usually there’s leftovers for the next day. I bet you didn’t know a typical order of beef and broccoli can contain almost 3,000 milligrams of sodium. In addition, if you include some soy sauce, add another 1,000 milligrams of sodium to make it about 4,000 milligrams.
What’s the harm? That’s about double of what the American Heart Association recommends daily. Nobody is knocking salt, but the problem is most people eat way too much of it. They recommend no more than 2,300 milligrams a day and an ideal limit of around 1,500 milligrams a day (resource). This recommendation is not for you if you’re an athlete or somebody who’s sweating all day long.
2. Canned Beans
Canned beans, especially baked beans can contain a lot of sodium. One can of baked beans has about 1,800 milligrams of sodium in one 12 ounce can. In addition, the same can also has 30 grams of sugar. Foods with a combination of high salt and sugar are ones you want to avoid with high blood pressure.
A patient at work thought he was eating healthy by buying canned Spanish black beans. After informing him that each can had about 1,500 milligrams of sodium, he decided to start buying the low sodium version which has about 400 milligrams per can.
3. Coffee Creamers
With the wide variety of flavors and sweet taste, how can you not add coffee creamers to your coffee? Did you ever wonder if they are non-dairy what are they made of? They’re nothing but mixtures of oil, sugar and thickness. To make things even worse, the are partially hydrogenated.
But hold on a second, they come in fat-free and sugar-free varieties. Unfortunately, they are made from unhealthy oils, thickeners and chemicals from artificial sweeteners. Not that I recommend it, but you’re probably better adding real sugar and cream to your coffee than these creamers.
Talking about sugar, I wrote a blog post explaining exactly how it may raise blood pressure. You can check it out by clicking here, How Does Sugar Raise Blood Pressure.
At one time I thought ketchup was one food that was totally healthy. I was always under the impression that I was able to add as much as I wanted and not worry about it. If you are battling high blood pressure, you might want to think about how much ketchup you add to your food. Ketchup doesn’t contain any fat and doesn’t add many calories. The problem is the amount of sugar and sodium. One tablespoon contains 150 mg of sodium and amongst 4 grams of sugar. Depending how much you put onto your food the sugar and sodium can add up pretty fast.
5. Canned Tomatoes And Bottled Sauce
Making your own tomato sauce can take some time. Therefore, I can understand buying your own jar of it when preparing a meal after work. Although it doesn’t taste as good as homemade, convenience and speed will frequently make bottled sauce your first choice.
One serving of bottle tomato sauce has about 480 mg of sodium. Depending on your choice, canned tomatoes can have almost the same. After adding cheese and bread to your meal, the sodium level in one meal exceeds what you should consume in one day.
6. Breakfast Cereals
One of my favorite breakfast cereals is Kashi. No, that’s not one of the foods to avoid with high blood pressure. It’s the ones that are sweet and some even have sugar in their name. These cereals are loaded with added sugar. Starting your day with these sugars (I mean breakfast cereals 😉 will spike your blood sugar and insulin (resource). This will raise your blood pressure by increasing your heart rate.
Did you know how most breakfast cereals are typically made?
- Processing: The grains are usually processed into fine four and cooked.
- Mixing: The flour is then mixed with sugar, cocoa and water.
- Extrusion: A high temperature process uses a machine to shape the cereal.
- Drying: The cereal is dried.
- Shaping: The cereal is shaped into forms like triangles, cones, stars or balls depending on the cereal brand. Some cereals may be coated in frosting or chocolate before it is dried.
I love pickles. I can eat them one after the other. Unfortunately, pickles are very high in sodium. An average size pickle can contain as much as 800 mg of sodium. That’s about half of your recommended daily intake. Extra sodium will throw off your potassium sodium ratio of 4:1. This will cause extra fluid retention and raise your blood pressure (resource).
8. Processed Peanut Butter
Peanut butter was an all time favorite of mine while growing up. Today, I still eat plenty of peanut butter, but I buy all natural with nothing added. A good peanut butter should have no more than 2 ingredients, peanuts and a pinch of salt. Some of the all natural brands try sneaking ingredients in there that you don’t need. Most commercial peanut butters can raise your blood pressure because they contain more salt, added sugars and hydrogenated oils. Avoid those and read your label prior to buying.
9. Frozen Pizza
Frozen pizza is another one of those easy meals. All you have to do is heat up the oven and put it in. A typical serving of frozen pizza has 800 milligrams of salt, 9 g of saturated fat and 8 g of sugar. I’m not sure about you, but when was the last time you ate just one serving? Therefore, you can at least double that fat and sodium intake.
10. Deli and Processed Meats
Processed meat has been preserved by curing, salting, smoking, drying or canning. Besides containing ingredients that are linked to cancer, processed meats are loaded with sodium chloride, also known as table salt. There are numerous studies that link processed meat and chronic diseases such as (resource):
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Bowel and stomach cancer
These are the most common processed meats:
- Hot Dogs
- Cured Meat
- Corned Beef
- Canned Meat
- Cured Bacon
11. Canned soup
When people think of soup, something healthy comes to mind. Soup is something that people should definitely include in their nutrition plan but if you are trying to avoid high blood pressure, then you should avoid canned soup.
Have you ever eaten one can of chicken soup? That one can alone is not going to fill you fill up but the average can contains 1,600 grams of sodium and some of them have more than 2,000. That’s a daily amount in just one quick sit down.
12. Chicken With The Skin
I love chicken! It’s one of the healthiest foods that you can eat. When you are looking to avoid high blood pressure, saturated and trans fats are something you must avoid (resource). Items that are high in saturated and trans fats are full fat dairy, red meat, butter and you guessed it, chicken skin. If you are going to eat chicken, please buy skinless.
Saturated fats can raise your cholesterol and clog those arteries. This can cause high blood pressure and over time heart disease and stroke (resource). While butter contains many beneficial nutrients for you, about 60% of the fat in butter is saturated fat. There are recent studies that claim how good butter is for you. I’m not disputing that, just like sodium, there are many nutritional benefits. But like most things, too much of it is not good so try to cut back.
14. Fried Foods
The list of fried foods is endless. There are foods that you eat all the time in a restaurant that you probably didn’t know were fried. Dumplings, spring rolls, chicken tenders, fish, shrimp, calamari, chicken and onion rings.
Fried foods taste so good but unfortunately they are high in calories and trans fat. In addition they are usually dipped in a batter or flour prior to frying. Here’s a fun fact for you. One small baked potato contains 93 calories and 0 grams of fat. The equivalent amount of French fries contains 319 calories and 17 grams of fat. As you can see, fried foods are something you want to avoid with high blood pressure.
15. Fast Foods
I guess you already know that fast foods are not healthy for you and something you would want to avoid with high blood pressure. To hammer the point home, I’m going to inform you of the nutrient content of one traditional fast-food burger meal that consists of a burger, fries and a soft drink.
- Calories-1,400 calories
- Fat-62 grams
- Sodium-1,785 mg
16. Fatty Meats
Whether you are trying to lose weight, lower LDL cholesterol or stay heart healthy it’s an excellent idea to avoid fatty meats. Fatty meats contain saturated and trans fats and can raise your bad cholesterol levels (resource). Fatty meats can include:
- Certain beef
- Hot Dogs
- Some Deli meats
17. Foods High In Sugar
It’s not the sugar found in fruits. I’m talking about the added sugars to food especially processed corn syrup. Sugar can make you gain weight. The weight gain alone put you at risk for high blood pressure. In addition, there’s strong evidence that sugar can raise your blood sugar and insulin levels. This activates the sympathetic nervous system causing an increase in heart rate and blood pressure (resource). Common foods high in sugar can include:
- Ice Cream
Mayo is something I used to eat all the time because I love the taste. It was customary for me to add extra mayo onto my BLT, roast beef hero or salads. One cup of mayo contains 1,400 calories, 160 grams of fat and 24 grams of saturated fat. In addition, be careful of the low-fat versions because they often raise the sodium and sugar levels to improve the taste.
19. Salad Dressings
There are certain spreads, condiments or sauces, like salad dressing, that can take otherwise healthy food and make them anything but. A salad alone is a low calorie, healthy option for a lunch. The problem is when people add cheese, bacon, ham or some salad dressings that create a salad high in calories and fat. Salads quickly become a food to avoid with high blood pressure.
One tablespoon of dressing can contain 9 grams of total fat. I’m unsure about you but most people add more than one tablespoon of dressing. If you add 5 tablespoons then it totals 45 grams of fat just in the dressing alone.
Cheese is a food you want to avoid with high blood pressure for 2 reasons. To begin with, it’s very high in saturated fats (resource). Cheese and other dairy products are among the food most likely to raise your cholesterol levels. Cheddar cheese is probably the worst with 24.9 grams of saturated fat in each cup. In addition, cheese contains about 175 mg of sodium per slice. When you’re making a sandwich or enjoying a cheese pizza, this can add up really fast.
21. Ice Cream
Have you ever sat in front of the Tv and enjoyed a whole pint of delicious ice cream? I have, especially Hagan Day chocolate! It tastes great, but the bad news is it is loaded with fat and sugar. One pint may contain 20 grams of fat and a whopping 34 grams of sugar.
The most common types of creams are heavy cream, light cream and half-and-half. Heavy cream is the thickest of them all and has about 400 calories and 28 grams of saturated fat. Too much saturated fat will increase your chance of high cholesterol (resource).
23. Processed Foods
First, let me clarify what I think processed food is. If it’s a single ingredient food with no added chemicals, then it doesn’t matter if it’s been ground or put into a jar. It’s still real food. However, foods that have been chemically processed and made from refined ingredients and artificial substances, are what is generally known as processed food. Processed foods should be avoided with high blood pressure because of the following:
- High in sugar.
- High in artificial ingredients.
- High in refined carbs.
- Low in nutrients needed to maintain health blood pressure.
- Often high in trans fat.
24. Desserts in Restaurants
Most desserts in restaurants are foods that you want to avoid with high blood pressure. Many desserts are high in sugar, salt or saturated fat. Too much of any of these ingredients are not good and can raise your blood pressure. Some desserts, even though they are delicious, can contain all three of these ingredients.
25. Table Salt
According to the Food and Drug Administration, about 75% of the sodium Americans eat comes from processed foods and salt added to foods at restaurants by the kitchen staff. The average American eats about 3,400 – 3,700 mg of sodium per day. This is much more than the recommended amount. Because of this, there is no reason to add table salt to your prepared foods. This is especially true at restaurants.
Salt is beneficial to you, and it’s needed in your daily nutrition. But too much of it is not good and can throw off the potassium/sodium ratio. This ratio is crucial with high blood pressure. This leads me to my next topic down below.
Avoid Foods That Affect The Potassium To Sodium Ratio With High Blood Pressure
This can drive you bananas 😉 but try maintaining the potassium to sodium ratio of 4:1. The 4:1 ratio is important because your kidneys help to control your blood pressure by managing the amount of fluid stored in your body (resource). Generally, the more fluid the higher your blood pressure. Your kidneys do this by filtering your blood and taking out any extra fluid. This process uses a delicate balance of sodium and potassium to pull out the excess water.
The daily recommended amounts would be about 1,500 mg of sodium (unless you’re an athlete or have an occupation where you’re sweating all day) and 4,700 mg of potassium. Foods High In Potassium that you should eat are:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Leafy Greens
- Dried Apricots
Food Label Tricks That Are Designed to Deceive You!
The food industry markets some of their food products in ways to deceive you. They want you to buy food making you think it may be good for you by using certain words or phrases. Instead, they are really foods to avoid if you have high blood pressure. Here are my insider tips for you so you don’t end up falling for their tricks in the future.
Organic: Some organic foods, like granola bars with organic raisins, can be just as high in sugar as a regular granola bar. The USDA restricts the use of high fructose corn syrup, but brown rice syrup can be used as a substitute. Brown rice syrup is a highly refined sweetener with an equally high glycemic index.
Fruit juice concentrate: Many people think it’s healthy because of the word fruit. In reality, the phrase is another word for sugar.
All natural: Food manufacturers stamp this saying on hundreds of packages to give you the impression that a product is healthy. Usually, this is far from the truth.
Zero doesn’t always mean zero: If a product has less than half a gram of fat, the FDA says the number can be rounded down to zero (resource). Therefore, no trans fat may have trans fat.
Multi-grain: Many people confuse multi-grain with whole grain, and the manufacturers know this. Multi-grain means that several kinds of grain were used, nothing else.
High in fiber: This doesn’t mean that the product contains naturally occurring fiber like whole grains and vegetables. Many of these products are stuffed with fake fiber.
Serving size: Most serving sizes are way too small for the average person. Take ice cream as an example, most serving sizes are 1/2 cup. I don’t know about you, but I never eat 1/2 cup of ice cream. Usually most people eat about 3 scoops which is over a cup and a quarter. In this situation your serving size calories, fat and sugar will be over 2 times the amount.
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