These Are The 10 Foods You Should Avoid If You Have Highblood Pressure Or Heart Problems

If you are diagnosed with hypertension, your healthcare provider will give you advice on how to manage it, whether through lifestyle changes—like starting an exercise routine or eating more healthily—and/or medications. However, my own experience helping patients with hypertension has shown me that keeping track of what to eat and what to avoid can be tricky. To help you get started, here’s a list of 10 foods and drinks to be cautious of or avoid to help you lower your blood pressure.

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 actually quite hard to avoid. Many people, including myself, love to add salt to their food. After all, it’s an easy way to increase the flavor profile of any dish. It can also be hard to tell if foods have a lot of salt in them.

The CDC has found that on average, Americans eat more than 3,400 mg of salt every day, which is above the maximum recommendation of 2,300 mg. The American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that for people with hypertension, reducing salt intake to 1,500 mg a day (less than half a teaspoon) can help lower systolic blood pressure by almost 5 mmHg.

If it’s difficult to cut salt out of your cooking, focus instead on other ingredients that can help make your dishes taste better. This brings us to the next point.

2) 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.”

One piece of advice I can offer is to use herbs and spices, like the ones below, and try other flavors besides “salty.” You can also look for spice blends that don’t use salt

3) Canned foods

Many canned vegetables, soups, and other food products are prepared with lots of salt for taste and to preserve the food. I often advise my patients to avoid these products if possible, and instead, eat fresh vegetables or low-salt soups. 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.

4) Processed foods

Similar to canned vegetables and soups, many 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 favor of freshly prepared dishes. Or, 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.

5) Unhealthy snacks

Everyone likes to munch on snacks between meals or at the end of the day. However, if you look at the snack aisle, what do you find? Chips, cookies, crackers, jerky, nuts, all of which have lots of salt in them! In fact, it’s their salt, fat, and sugar that make snacks so addictive. For example, popular chip flavorings such as ranch, salt and vinegar, cheese, and barbeque are all high in salt. Again, look for versions with little or no salt added. Another option is buying plain popcorn and adding your own spices, so you don’t have to worry about salt at all.

6) Cured meats

Ham, bacon, and deli meats are often prepared by soaking them in a brine bath made with salt water and spices. While cured meats can be really tasty, it’s best to avoid them. Watch out especially during the holidays, when you go out to eat, and especially when you’re making a sandwich. Sandwiches are really 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.

7) Pickled foods

Similar to cured meats, pickled vegetables also carry a lot of salt. Pickling is a process where food sits in a solution of salt (to kill off bad bacteria) and other flavoring agents. Because of this, pickled foods often are high in salt. If you’re concerned about your blood pressure, avoid eating pickles or other pickled foods like kimchi and sauerkraut, or at least wash them before eating to get rid of some of the salt.

8) Alcohol

An alcoholic drink can raise your blood pressure slightly, but if you drink too much, your blood pressure may rise dramatically. For people who drink alcohol on a daily or semi-daily basis, cutting back to recommended levels can lower blood pressure by about 4 mmHg. The AHA recommends that men drink no more than one or two drinks a day and women drink no more than one drink a day. One drink is defined as 12 oz beer, 4 oz of wine, 1.5 oz of 80-proof spirits, or 1 oz of 100-proof spirits.

9) Caffeine

Coffee, tea, and energy drinks often come with caffeine, which can cause your blood pressure to rise. For people with a healthy blood pressure, caffeine really isn’t an issue, but if you have hypertension, it’s recommended that you limit your caffeine intake and choose decaf or half-caff coffee or caffeine-free teas instead. For more information about caffeine and hypertension, see our blog post here.

10) High-fat 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 for heart problems. To correct this issue, following a healthy diet—such as the DASH diet—can really be helpful.

As you can see, many foods and drinks can increase your blood pressure, oftentimes through hidden salt. It’s easy to consume a lot of salt without being aware of it, so make sure to check nutrition labels when you can. Limiting your intake of salt (maximum daily limit of 1500 mg), alcohol, caffeine, and fats is really important if you have hypertension. 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.