High Blood Pressure - What food to eat and what food not to eat?
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common condition that can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. It occurs when the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries is too high. The normal range for blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg. If your blood pressure is consistently above 140/90 mm Hg, you have hypertension and should consult your doctor.
One of the main factors that can affect your blood pressure is your diet. Eating a healthy diet can help lower your blood pressure and prevent or manage hypertension. Here are some tips on what food to eat and what food not to eat if you have hypertension or want to keep your blood pressure in check.
What food to eat
A healthy diet for hypertension is one that is low in sodium, saturated fat and added sugars, and high in potassium, magnesium, calcium and fibre. These nutrients can help relax your blood vessels, reduce fluid retention, and lower your blood pressure. Some of the foods that are rich in these nutrients are:
Fruits and vegetables: Aim to eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables every day. They are rich in potassium, magnesium and fibre, which can help lower your blood pressure. Fresh, frozen, dried, juiced and canned all count, but avoid those with added salt or sugar. Some examples of fruits and vegetables that are good for hypertension are bananas, oranges, berries, leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes and potatoes.
Whole grains: Choose whole grain varieties of bread, rice, pasta and cereals over refined ones. They contain more fibre, which can help lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. Some examples of whole grains are oats, barley, quinoa, buckwheat and brown rice.
Low-fat dairy products: Dairy products are a good source of calcium, which can help regulate your blood pressure. Choose low-fat or fat-free versions of milk, yogurt and cheese over full-fat ones. Avoid cream, butter and ice cream as they are high in saturated fat.
Lean meats, poultry and fish: Protein is essential for your health, but some sources of protein are better than others for hypertension. Choose lean cuts of meat and poultry over fatty ones, and remove the skin before cooking. Fish is a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower your blood pressure and protect your heart. Aim to eat at least two portions of fish per week, preferably oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines.
Nuts, seeds and beans: These foods are also good sources of protein and fibre, as well as potassium and magnesium. They can help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. However, they are also high in calories and fat, so eat them in moderation. A handful of nuts or seeds or a cup of beans per day is enough. Avoid salted or roasted nuts or seeds as they are high in sodium.
Herbs and spices: Adding herbs and spices to your food can enhance the flavour without adding salt or sugar. They can also provide antioxidants and other beneficial compounds that can lower your blood pressure and inflammation. Some examples of herbs and spices that are good for hypertension are garlic, onion, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, basil, oregano and rosemary.
What food not to eat
Some foods can raise your blood pressure or interfere with your medications if you have hypertension. You should limit or avoid these foods as much as possible:
Processed foods: Processed foods are foods that have been altered from their natural state to extend their shelf life or enhance their flavour. They often contain high amounts of salt, sugar and fat, as well as artificial additives and preservatives. Some examples of processed foods that are high in sodium are canned soups, sauces, salad dressings, cured meats, bacon, pickles, cheese, snacks, fast foods and frozen meals. A single serving of these foods can easily exceed the recommended daily limit of sodium. For instance, a slice of pizza can have up to 640 mg of sodium, or 28% of the RDI. Try to limit your intake of processed foods and opt for fresh or homemade alternatives whenever possible.
Table salt: Table salt is the most obvious source of sodium in your diet. It is made up of 40% sodium and 60% chloride. Sodium can make your body retain more fluid and increase the pressure in your arteries. Adding salt to your food can significantly increase your sodium intake. For example, one teaspoon of table salt has 2,325 mg of sodium, or 97% of the RDI. While some salt is necessary for flavour and health, most people consume more than they need. Try to reduce the amount of salt you use in cooking and at the table. You can also use herbs and spices instead of salt to add flavour to your food. The recommended daily intake of sodium for adults is no more than 2,300 mg per day (about one teaspoon of table salt).
Salty snacks: Salty snacks are another major contributor to sodium intake. They include chips, popcorn, pretzels, crackers, nuts and seeds that have been salted or roasted with salt. These snacks are not only high in sodium but also low in nutritional value. They can also make you thirsty and increase your fluid intake, which can raise your blood pressure further. A 28-gram serving of potato chips can have up to 170 mg of sodium, or 7% of the RDI. Choose unsalted or lightly salted snacks instead, or snack on fresh fruits and vegetables.
Bread and rolls: Bread and rolls may not seem salty, but they can contain a surprising amount of sodium. This is because salt is added to the dough for flavour and texture. It also helps control the yeast activity and prevent spoilage. A single slice of bread can have up to 230 mg of sodium, or 10% of the RDI. Bread and rolls are also a major source of carbohydrates, which can raise your blood sugar levels and affect your blood pressure. Choose whole grain breads over refined ones, and limit your portion size. You can also look for low-sodium breads or make your own at home with less salt.
Cheese: Cheese is a delicious source of protein and calcium, but it can also be high in sodium. This is because salt is used in the cheese-making process to enhance flavour, texture and shelf life. The amount of sodium in cheese varies depending on the type and brand. For example, 28 grams of cheddar cheese can have up to 176 mg of sodium, or 8% of the RDI. Some cheeses that are lower in sodium are mozzarella, ricotta, cottage cheese and cream cheese. However, even these cheeses should be consumed in moderation if you have hypertension. You can also opt for low-sodium cheese varieties or use less cheese in your recipes.
Hypertension is a common condition that can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. It can be influenced by your diet and lifestyle choices. Eating a healthy diet that is low in sodium and high in potassium, magnesium, calcium and fibre can help lower your blood pressure and prevent or manage hypertension. Eating a healthy diet for hypertension is not only beneficial for your blood pressure but also for your overall health and well-being. It can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower your cholesterol levels, improve your blood sugar levels, and reduce your risk of other chronic diseases. It can also enhance your mood, energy and mental clarity. A healthy diet for hypertension is not a restrictive or boring diet. It is a balanced and varied diet that includes plenty of delicious and nutritious foods that can satisfy your taste buds and nourish your body. By making some simple changes to your eating habits, you can lower your blood pressure and improve your health in the long term.
Dr. Karuturi Subrahmanyam, MD, FRCP (London), FACP (USA)
Internal Medicine Specialist
Phone : 85000 23456