High blood pressure is a common health issue, and one that requires active management. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure. Surprisingly, only about half of these people have it under control. And some folks might not even know their blood pressure is problematic if it’s been a while since they’ve visited the doctor.
Known as “the silent killer,” uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to serious health risks and even death, the American Heart Association says. There are even complications you’ve probably never considered, including loss of vision and kidney failure. What this means is it’s time to start taking high blood pressure seriously, and that begins with knowing your numbers.
While your doctor may be the first one to spot it, it’s up to you to stay on top of keeping your blood pressure where it needs to be by exercising and eating right. You’re your own best wellness advocate, so knowing what’s helping, and harming, your overall health is key.
If your doctor has determined you have high blood pressure, here are 27 foods you should limit, or avoid. We’ll also take a look at seven foods you should eat.
Sodium and salt
If you have high blood pressure, you need to be particularly mindful of how much sodium you consume on a daily basis. Why? The AHA explains water is pulled into the blood vessels when you have excess sodium in your system, increasing the amount of blood and, ultimately, causing your blood pressure to increase. The same story adds about 77% of sodium consumed comes from packaged, prepared, and restaurant food.
What’s even more frightening is another 12% comes from foods that naturally contain sodium, which still doesn’t account for your salt shaker. To help people limit their salt intake, the AHA created a list of foods that add the most sodium to our diets, so you definitely want to limit them.
- Breads and rolls: One piece can contain 230 milligrams.
- Cold cuts and cured meats: Pre-packaged turkey can contain 1,050 milligrams of sodium per serving.
- Pizza: One slice can contain 760 milligrams.
- Poultry: 3 ounces of frozen and breaded nuggets can contain 600 milligrams.
- Soup: One cup of canned chicken noodle soup can contain 940 milligrams.
- Sandwiches: All in, your sandwich can easily surpass 1,500 milligrams.
Next: You should get no more than 6% of your calories from this.
Saturated fats raise the cholesterol in your blood, which can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. So, it’s important for those with high blood pressure to be aware of how much they’re eating. The AHA recommends getting no more than 6% of your daily calories from saturated fat. This means you’ll want to cut back on these six foods.
- Fatty beef
- Lard and cream
Next: These are terrible for your overall health.
Sweets and added sugars
Sugar has long been known to contribute to obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Interestingly, some research shows sugar can impact a person’s blood pressure directly, independent of weight gain. Consider this one more reason to pass on those office doughnuts. Here are five sweet treats you should limit.
- Sugar-sweetened beverages
- Grain-based desserts like cakes, cookies, and pies
- Fruit drinks
- Dairy desserts and milk products like ice cream and sweetened yogurt
Next: These types of foods are also associated with type 2 diabetes.
Trans fat and partially hydrogenated oils
More often than not, trans fat is found in processed foods, which is bad news for people who’ve been following a typical American diet their whole lives. According to the AHA, “Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lowers your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It’s also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.” Clearly, everyone should limit this unhealthy fat.
Because some processed foods can be sneaky about how they label their trans fat, it’s important to have a discerning eye. Reader’s Digest says you should be wary of these five foods.
- Nondairy coffee creamer
- Peanut butter
- Frozen pizza
High blood pressure is certainly nothing to mess around with, which is why a heart-healthy diet is a key factor in maintaining your overall health and well-being. Skip this stuff and go for more nutritious foods instead.
Next: Your morning boost might not be so good for you.
You might not think too much about your morning cup of coffee, but it can actually cause a sharp spike in blood pressure. According to the Mayo Clinic, some researchers believe caffeine can actually block a hormone that keeps your arteries widened, or consuming it causes an adrenaline release. Both of these things can lead to higher blood pressure — even if it’s just temporary.
To find out whether or not your daily caffeine fix is affecting your blood pressure, you should ask your doctor. You can also do a test yourself — check your blood pressure within 30 to 120 minutes of consuming caffeine. If it increases by five to 10 points, you might want to cut down your intake. Here are a few foods with high levels of caffeine.
- Protein bars
- Coffee (regular and decaf)
- Coffee or chocolate ice cream
- Black tea
Next: The seven foods you should be eating to help lower your high blood pressure.
Bananas are one of your best options. As it turns out, foods high in potassium help manage high blood pressure because it can minimize the impact sodium has. The American Heart Association says one medium banana has about 420 milligrams of potassium, which is a significant amount for a relatively small amount of food. The daily recommended potassium intake for adults is 4,700 milligrams, so just one fruit will have you well on your way.
Next: If you’re going to eat grains, make sure they’re this type.
2. Whole grains
Registered dietitian Keri Gans tells Health going for whole grains ensures you get all the good stuff — bran, germ, and endosperm. Refined grains, on the other hand, have been stripped of the bran and germ. Luckily, there’s a long list of whole grains to choose from, including quinoa, barley, and brown rice.
Next: Enjoy this type of dairy that’s actually good for your blood pressure.
3. Low-fat yogurt
Unless you also happen to be lactose intolerant, you’re good to go when it comes to dairy products. Some evidence indicates dairy is beneficial for lowering blood pressure, but you want to make sure you’re choosing the low-fat variety, as we know people with high blood pressure should avoid trans and saturated fats. Need more convincing? The DASH Diet, which has been praised for lowering blood pressure, encourages people to incorporate low-fat dairy products into their diets. This includes low-fat yogurt and fat-free milk.
Next: Add more of this kind of protein into your diet.
Everyone needs their protein, but red meat definitely isn’t the way to go if you’re trying to control high blood pressure. Because fish contains less saturated fat, it’s a good option. Plus, according to the AHA, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The best options for a heart-healthy diet include halibut, tuna, and salmon.
Next: Make it a habit to reach for these as a snack.
Nuts contain heart-healthy omega-3 fats, so there’s little argument about their importance in a diet focused on lowering high blood pressure. Additionally, SFGate says certain nuts could lower cholesterol, which is often a huge offender among those with high blood pressure. So, whether you prefer pistachios to walnuts, snacking on these staples will help keep your heart healthy.
Next: These foods are full of fiber and protein.
Legumes aren’t half bad, either. One study examined the role these fiber-rich foods play in controlling blood pressure among patients with diabetes. In a press release, lead study author Dr. David Jenkins said legumes have a “blood pressure-lowering effect in diabetic patients.” Not to mention, legumes are a great source of protein. Check out these delicious recipes, all starring the mighty bean.
Next: Ditch the canola oil and use this instead.
7. Olive oil
In addition to being good for those with arthritis, due to its anti-inflammatory properties, olive oil is loaded with heart-healthy fats. According to Mayo Clinic, the healthy fats found in olive oil are monounsaturated fatty acids. These healthy fats can help lower total cholesterol, along with LDL (bad) cholesterol. The Arthritis Foundation recommends 2 to 3 tablespoons daily, and points out that extra-virgin olive oil is a better option, as it isn’t as heavily processed.
Additional reporting by Lauren Weiler.