If You Have High Blood Pressure, Avoid These Foods

When the blood presses against artery walls more forcefully than normal, high blood pressure occurs. Those who have consistently high blood pressure suffer from hypertension, and they need to watch their salt and sugar intake. Over three-fourths of our salt consumption comes from sneaky sources.

From the type of cheese you buy to condiments, many foods sneak salt, sugar, and fats into your diet. Once you know about these foods, you can avoid them–and gradually lower your blood pressure. Learn about the foods that people with hypertension should avoid.

Limit Your Cheeses (And Choose The Right Ones)

A saleswoman reaches for a cheese wheel.
Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images
Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images

It’s a myth that people with high blood pressure have to cut out cheese completely. You can eat cheese, but how much depends on the type of cheese. According to Heart Health, some cheeses contain more sodium than seawater. These include feta, halloumi, Roquefort, and cheese singles.

If you want cheese with less saturated fat and salt, opt for mozzarella and cottage cheeses. And don’t discount reduced-fat cheese. They have the same flavor as regular cheese with 25% less fat. As long as you limit your portion sizes, you can eat these cheeses without worry.

More Soda Equals Higher Blood Pressure

Two girls pour soda at the 'Taste It!' exhibit in the World of Coca-Cola.
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Research suggests that cutting back on your soda intake could save your blood pressure. In 2011, scientists from the Imperial College in London analyzed almost 2,700 soda drinkers. Participants who drank more than one sweetened beverage a day had high blood pressure. Even worse, it kept increasing the more they drank.

The research identified the culprits as glucose, fructose, and salt. These are the most common sweeteners and preservatives used in soda. Fortunately, diet soda doesn’t cause the same effect, and cutting back on one soda per day does wonders for your blood pressure.

Don’t Buy Deli Meat

A customer chooses from preserved sausages and hams at a supermarket.
Sam Tsang/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
Sam Tsang/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Pre-sliced deli meats are like sodium bombs. An average two-ounce serving of delicatessen lunch meat offers upwards of 500 grams of sodium. Even a leaner option like turkey quickly adds up to 1000 mg with only three slices. On the worse end, a single serving of Genoa provides 910 mg of salt.

If you put these pre-sliced meats on a sandwich, you’ll only load up on more salt. Mustard, pickles, cheese–even whole wheat bread averages between 200 mg and 400 mg of sodium. Save yourself the hassle by buying fresh meat or cooking it yourself.

The Long Debate Over Coffee, Answered

A woman holds a to-go cup of coffee on the street.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images

The studies equating blood pressure and coffee are conflicting, according to Harvard Health Publishing. But after studying all the research, Switz scientists discovered that espresso spikes blood pressure more than plain caffeine. Strangely, noncaffeinated espresso did not cause this spike.

On the flip-side, Harvard researchers have found no link between heart disease and coffee, even in heavy drinkers. What’s the takeaway? It varies by person. If you feel fine after drinking coffee, you can continue to enjoy it in moderation. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, you may want to cut it out of your diet.

Sugar Is Worse Than Salt

A girl is holding a Freestyle Libre blood glucose meter with far too high a blood glucose level next to plates of cake, milk and lollipops in her hands.
Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images
Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images

When it comes to hypertension, many people focus on sodium. But research from 2014 argues that sugar is worse for blood pressure than salt. Published in Open Heart, the study states that sugar increases insulin, which speeds up the heart and blood pressure.

According to the study, participants who ate high sugar meals for two weeks experienced a noticeable spike in blood pressure. The authors assert that because too little sodium harms peoples’ health, people with hypertension should focus more on cutting out sugar.

Don’t Pick Pickles

Chopped cucumber soaks in pickle jars.
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare

Although they’re tasty, pickles are the epitome of “salty food.” A medium-sized pickle supplies a max of 800 mg of salt, over half of your daily recommended dose on a low-sodium diet. In 2018, a study by LiveStrong confirmed that eating pickles raises blood pressure.

As with all high-sodium foods, pickles are fine in moderation. But combined with other salty foods–deli meat sandwiches, cheeses, and hot dogs–will heighten your salt intake considerably. Salt places greater pressure on your blood vessels, which increases blood pressure. If you like pickles, restrict your serving sizes.

Be Wary Of Canned Tomato Products

Worker wearing gloves holds a heart-shaped tomato.

Most canned and bottled tomato sauces are preserved with sodium. According to the USDA, half a cup of classic marinara sauce has well over 400 mg of salt. A cup of tomato juice raises the sodium to 600 mg. If you don’t measure your sauce, the salt will sneak its way into your diet.

Fortunately, a study in Food Science & Nutrition confirmed that unsalted tomato sauces lower hypertension and cholesterol. The American Heart Association offers recipes to make your own tomato products. If you need to buy some, search for a low-sodium option.

How You Cook Red Meat Matters

A cooker puts salt on beef in a traditional grill restaurant.

Although many studies have pointed fingers at red meat, new research suggests that the cooking method has more to do with high blood pressure. In 2018, researchers presented concluded a 16-year study about cooking red meat and fish. They concluded that high-temperature cooking, such as open flame, raised the risk of hypertension.

Participants who grilled their meat and fish were 17% more likely to develop hypertension than those who broiled or roasted their meat. Researchers believe that over-cooking increases the inflammatory response in the body, raising blood pressure. Also, restrict your red meat consumption to twice a week.

Condiments Are Sneaky Salt Sources

Hellmann's jars of mayonnaise are seen on a shelf at a store.
Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Salt sneaks into almost every condiment. For instance, ketchup supplies 160 mg of salt per tablespoon. Teriyaki sauce marinades have almost 700 mg of sodium. Soy sauce is the worst: 1,500 mg of salt per one tablespoon! And many people glaze more than one tablespoon on their meals.

The American Heart Association recommends finding low-sodium alternatives. You can make your own hot sauce, BBQ sauce, and ketchup at home. For salad dressings, hunt down a fat-free or “light” version. And always remember to measure out your portions.

White Potatoes, In Any Form, Increase Blood Pressure

A doctor speaks to a patient as a sphygmomanometer, or blood pressure meter, lies on his desk.
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Potato chips aren’t the only type of potato that is bad for hypertension. In 2016, scientists reported their findings on potatoes from over 20 years of research. According to them, those who ate boiled, baked, or mashed potatoes four times a week were 11% more likely to develop high blood pressure.

When potatoes mix with sodium, the result rises. Participants who ate french fries four or more times a week were 17% more likely to develop high blood pressure. Although potatoes can help in moderation due to their potassium, they have such a high glycemic index that you should eat them sparingly.

Watch Your Peanut Butter Servings

Peanut butter is spread on a knife above a PB&J sandwich.
Pinterest/Peg Fitzpatrick – Pinterest, Instagram & Social Media Tips
Pinterest/Peg Fitzpatrick – Pinterest, Instagram & Social Media Tips

Peanut butter can work in a hypertensive diet. However, you’ll need to monitor the peanut butter closely. Many peanut butters contain added sugars and vegetable oils, both of which can clog arteries. Look out for nut butters with partially hydrogenated oils, palm oils, and soy oils.

The American Heart Association’s hypertension diet allows a small amount of peanut butter that can lower blood pressure. They allot one serving (two tablespoons) four to five times a week. The National Peanut Board also advises choosing butters with fully hydrogenated oil, which has no trans fats.

Avoid Milk Chocolate And White Chocolate

A person picks white chocolate from a stack of chocolates.

The lighter the chocolate, the more sugar it has. One cup of milk chocolate chips contains over 86 grams of sugar, whereas the same amount of white chocolate supplies 100 grams of sugar. According to a study in Open Heart, excess sugar is worse for hypertension than salt.

But there is good news. During a 2018 Harvard study, researchers concluded that dark chocolate might lower blood pressure. Because dark chocolate has 50% to 70% cocoa, it provides natural flavonoids that dilate blood vessels. But while dark chocolate has 50 mg of flavonoids, milk chocolate only contains 16 mg.

The Salt In Canned Beans Is Unavoidable

A store displays shelves of Heinz beans.
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

On their own, beans and legumes help lower blood pressure. But canned beans have added ingredients built to preserve them, namely salt. Many canned beans contain well over 1,000 mg of sodium. Although many people recommend rinsing the beans to get rid of salt, that doesn’t help much for hypertension patients.

According to physicians from Pritikin, soaking beans for ten minutes and rinsing them only removes 30% of the salt. In a can with 1,000 mg of sodium, that leaves 700 mg. It’s not a big enough difference to make canned beans healthy.

Don’t Cook With Certain Vegetable Oils

A woman measures her blood pressure at her kitchen table.
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Some vegetable oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which harm blood pressure levels. According to a 2019 study in Open Heart, omega-6’s increase blood pressure through their high amounts of linoleic acid. Unfortunately, many of these high omega-6 oils slip into various foods.

During a 2011 study, rats who were fed palm and soy oils experienced a noticeable increase in blood pressure. Other oils with high omega-6s include sunflower, corn, and cottonseed oils. Opt for more healthy cooking oils such as olive, coconut, and avocado. Even canola has less harmful omega-6s than other options.

Substitute High-Fat Whole Milk

Dairy products are on shelves inside of a refrigerator in Shaw's grocery store.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

High-fat foods make blood pressure worse, and fatty milk is no exception. Whole milk has high saturated fat, with one cup containing eight grams of fat and 4.5 grams of saturated fat. The American Heart Association recommends avoiding these saturated fats since they build up in your artery walls.

On the other hand, drinking low-fat milk alleviates high blood pressure. After analyzing over 60,000 people in 2014, researchers determined that drinking two cups of low-fat milk a day lowers the risk of hypertension. The calcium, potassium, and magnesium help to reduce blood pressure.

Mind The Salt In Sauerkraut

Cook adds Morses sauerkraut to a pan.
Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Like pickles, sauerkraut is a high-sodium fermented food. One cup of sauerkraut has well over 900 mg of sodium. The only low-sodium option is raw, naturally fermented sauerkraut, and it’s not the same. Despite the salt, eating sauerkraut in moderation can benefit your blood pressure levels.

According to a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, participants who ate fermented foods daily (such as kimchi) experienced lower weight and blood pressure. Sauerkraut’s high amount of potassium may help your blood pressure levels if you limit your portion sizes.

BPA Is A Big Risk In Canned Soups

Man has his blood pressure measured by Linda Williams, a medical assistant.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

It’s no secret that canned soup has high amounts of salt. But 2014 research in Hypertension suggests a more dangerous culprit, bisphenol A (BPA). According to researchers, this chemical can raise blood pressure up to 16 times its normal level. BPA is found in plastics and can linings.

Compared to other canned foods, soup threatens to have most BPA. After measuring participants’ urine, researchers noted that they had 1000% more BPA from eating canned soup for five days, as opposed to homemade soup. Don’t risk this for a can of soup.

Donuts–Just Don’t

Close-up of man eating jam donut.
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Donuts are one of the least healthy pastries you can east, especially if you have high blood pressure. They combine frying with sugar, two of the worst ingredients for hypertension. According to 2014 research from New Zealand, the more sugar we eat, the higher our blood pressure rises. And donuts have between 10 to 20 grams of sugar on average.

If that isn’t enough, an average donut has well over 300 calories. Many are made of 42% fat and 54% carbs. And that’s not even considering the fried component. In short: pick another pastry for your breakfast treat.

Energy Drinks Alter Your Heart Rate

A man holds a can of Red Bull against the sunlight.

Like other highly-caffeinated drinks, energy drinks affect your blood pressure. But according to 2019 research by the American Heart Association, it also changes your heart rate. During the study, people who drank 32 ounces of energy drinks raised blood pressure and heart rate after 30 minutes.

The researchers emphasize that those with high blood pressure should avoid energy drinks. Otherwise, they’ll have a higher risk of ventricular arrhythmias, a fatal condition that causes abnormal heartbeats. If you have high blood pressure, get your caffeine fix elsewhere.

Why You Shouldn’t Eat White Rice

A plate holds white rice and pork.

Like bread, rice can help or harm blood pressure depending on the type you eat. Refined white rice is the most dangerous option. Stripped of bran and germ, white rice has none of the nutrients of whole wheat rice. According to Harvard research, people who ate more than five servings of white rice per week have a 17% greater chance of type 2 diabetes.

There is some good news for white rice, and that’s in gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). During a 2015 study, GABA rice was found to improve blood pressure in hypertensive people. But common store-bought white rice doesn’t have this benefit.

Steer Clear Of Fried Meals

A person removes fried fish fillets from a frying pan.
Dennis Anderson/Star Tribune via Getty Images
Dennis Anderson/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Corn dogs, chicken tenders, and fries are never the healthiest choice, but they’re more dangerous for people with high blood pressure. To the surprise of no one, a 2019 study confirmed that the more you eat, the worse your blood pressure becomes. Participants who ate fried food daily had a 14% greater chance of developing heart disease.

A prior study in 2018 indicated that a Southern American diet (with more fried food) worsens blood pressure by up to 17%. In the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, the American Heart Association advises people with high blood pressure to steer clear of fried foods.

Easy-Made Ramen Is A Mistake

Dried ramen noodle packages are stacked on a store shelf.
Getty Images
Getty Images

Although instant ramen noodles may make a quick meal, they also pose a health risk. According to a 2014 study in The Journal of Nutrition, eating instant noodles more than two times a week raised the risk of high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome. And that’s excluding the potential for weight gain.

An average pack of instant ramen noodles supplies 1,820 mg of salt. That’s two-thirds of the FDA’s daily sodium recommendation. Plus, instant ramen is preserved with Tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ), which your body struggles to digest. It’s an overall high blood pressure trap.

Frozen Pot Pies Are Both Salty And Fatty

The frozen meal box is for a Marie Callender's chicken pot pie.
Getty Images
Getty Images

Like many processed foods, frozen pot pies are packed with sodium. A single serving contains 1,400 mg of sodium. For reference, the American Heart Association recommends only 1,500 mg of salt per day for adults with high blood pressure. If you have two servings, you’ll be way over your salt limit.

Frozen pot pies also supply over 40 grams of fat, including saturated and trans fats. You’d potentially ruin your day’s diet with one serving of pot pie. The good news: if you bake a pot pie at home, you can cut down on sodium and fat.

Frozen Pizza Has Only Bad Ingredients

Annie's organic frozen pizza is cooked and lies on a cutting board.
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Tomato sauces and cheeses naturally have salt. Combine that with sodium preservatives, and you have an unhealthy meal. Some frozen pizzas, such as Dr. Oetker’s and Morrisons, have well over five grams of sodium. Remember that the daily recommended intake for people with hypertension is 2.3 grams maximum.

“Adults should eat no more than six grams of salt a day,” reports the National Health Association. A single frozen pizza has well over that amount. And that’s not accounting for the amount of fat in pre-made pizzas, too.

Butter Has Too Many Saturated Fats

Close-up shot displays butter with toast.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Butter is filled with saturated fats. While a little saturated fat is okay and even healthy, more doesn’t equal better. According to a 2016 study in the Iranian Journal of Neurology, a diet high in saturated fat results in high blood pressure across the board. Dairy butter has a whopping seven grams of saturated fat per serving.

Although some people have praised dairy butter for protein, the truth is that one serving of butter only supplies 0.1 grams of protein. It’s not enough to make a difference, especially not in your blood pressure.

Pre-Made Banana Bread Isn’t Healthy

Banana bread from Huckleberry is laid out on a cutting board.
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Depending on where you get your banana bread, it can work for or against you. If you buy one from the store, chances are that one serving will give you 20 grams of sugar and nine grams of fat, mostly trans fats. Both of these ingredients are discouraged by the American Heart Association for patients with high blood pressure.

However, you can enjoy banana bread if you make it yourself. According to Nutritionist and Dietitian Megan Ware, bananas contribute to lower blood pressure. Use less sugar and whole-grain bread for a healthy banana bread recipe.

White Bread Is Salty

A boy spreads butter on white bread.
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Believe it or not, many types of store-bought white bread contain salt. For instance, a slice of Sara Lee white bread provides 130 mg of salt per slice, which is 6% of your daily recommended sodium. While this sounds low in theory, combine two slices with deli meat, pickles, and condiments, and you’ll have a blood pressure-raising sodium bomb.

Blood Pressure UK recommends buying low-salt or no-sodium bread. You can ask your local baker to make salt-free bread or bake the bread yourself. Also, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension recommends whole grain.

Bacon Has No Benefits

Bacon cooks in a frying pan.
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While bacon is delicious, it supplies close to nothing in nutritional value. One serving of bacon supplies one-fourth of your daily fat intake, with mostly saturated fats. In 2011, a study in the journal Hypertension reported that high amounts of saturated fat increase blood pressure.

“I think bacon is probably one of the worst foods on the planet,” cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Omid Javaid told Fox News. “When you look at its content, it’s pure fat and cholesterol.” And we haven’t even touched upon 270 mg of sodium per serving. Yikes!

Skip Happy Hour

A glass sits on a living room table.

If you have high blood pressure, watch how much you drink. During a 2019 study by the American College of Cardiology, researchers concluded that even moderate drinking still raises one’s blood pressure. Only seven to 13 drinks per week negatively impact hypertension.

Researchers believe that either the calorie gain or liver strain contributes to the spike in blood pressure. Either way, you’ll want to limit your happy hour time. If you’re under 65, you won’t want to exceed two drinks per day. Those over 65 can only have one drink per day.

Watch The Chinese Take-Out

Customers eat lunch at Tasty Dining, a Chinese style restaurant.
Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

It’s no secret that Chinese restaurant food is filled with sodium, but many people don’t know how much. According to Fox News, a standard entrée of beef and broccoli has over 3,000 mg of salt. The American Heart Association recommends 1,500 mg of sodium for patients with hypertension.

Are you willing to double your daily recommended salt in one meal alone? Probably not. Granted, some Chinese places offer low salt options, but takeout and fast-food restaurants are the worst culprits. Buy your food somewhere else.