High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease, strokes, and kidney disease. And it is very, very prevalent in the United States. Yet, over half the people who have high blood pressure do not have it under control. Why? Because they don't know which foods to avoid. So today, I'm going to give you 15 foods to avoid if you have high blood pressure, keep reading.
I'm Dr. Frita. I am a board-certified nephrologist, meaning I specialize in kidney disease and in high blood pressure. And so this is my wheelhouse. This is what I talk about to patients day in and day out. Also, I have a book "Under Pressure: A Guide To Controlling High Blood Pressure." Be sure to click the link so that you can purchase this book to further help you on your journey with high blood pressure.
How Much Sodium Is Too Much?
If you have high blood pressure, high sodium is exactly what you don't want to have. According to the American Heart Association, people with high blood pressure should have less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day. Some kidney organizations say you can have 2,000 milligrams of sodium a day. And the USDA says 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. But again, dealing with high blood pressure, and heart disease, it's recommended that you have less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day.
15 Foods to Avoid If You Have High Blood Pressure!
There are so many foods that are delicious and rich, and they're in our everyday lives, but they could be contributing to high blood pressure. And so if you have high blood pressure, or if you have a loved one who has high blood pressure, please listen up because I'm going to give you 15 foods to avoid if you have high blood pressure.
1. Canned Foods
Canned foods tend to have a lot of sodium. Why? Because it's a preservative. It helps to give them a longer shelf life. I purposely brought out vegetables. You know, something that tends to be healthy because some people think that as long as they're eating a vegetable, even if it's in a can, that it's okay. Not so.
So let's look at a can of diced tomatoes. Tomatoes are pretty healthy. One serving has 180 milligrams of sodium. Hmm, maybe not so bad, but guess what? This one little can is considered to have 3.5 servings. So if you multiply that out, 180 milligrams times 3.5, one can of diced tomatoes is a whopping 630 milligrams of sodium a day! So already it's about half of the daily limits. So that's something you want to avoid.
And how about some corn? Some creamed corn, right? People like corn. Corn, it's a vegetable, kind of. Well, one serving has 340 milligrams of sodium. Again, there are 3 1/2 servings in this can, so they say. So multiply that out. 340 times 3.5. You're at 1,190 milligrams of sodium if you eat this whole can of corn, which many people do, and they think they're doing something like a meal replacement.
And it goes on, and on, and on. Even if you're having a larger can of something like seasoned green beans. Well, one serving is 590 milligrams of sodium. Now already, you can hear that it sounds like a lot of sodium. But if you look at this can of seasoned green beans, one can has 6.5 servings. And so you multiply that out, and you have over 3,000 milligrams of sodium in just one large can of seasoned green beans! So one food you want to avoid if you have high blood pressure is canned foods.
Now, being realistic, a lot of times people don't have the money to get fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables, and they have to use canned goods. So what do you do? You want to pour off the salty water and pour in some fresh water on the canned vegetables and let it sit, to help to get rid of some of the excess sodium.
2. Deli Meats
We usually think about things like deli turkey as being healthy. But let's talk about deli meats in general. Deli meats and other processed meats have nitrates. And a lot of these foods, these deli meats will have up to 600 milligrams of sodium in just one serving. And so if you look at deli turkey, a lot of y'all have seen turkey like this, and you think, "Oh, it's a healthy choice for a sandwich." Well, one serving has 500 milligrams of sodium. But what's a serving? Two ounces. And y'all know good and well, if you make a sandwich, you use more than two ounces of turkey.
And so say you double that up. Now, you've got 1,000 milligrams of sodium, or really, if you get three times as much, which sounds more like it, you have 1,500 milligrams of sodium! And so you really want to watch out for the deli meats.
In another example, one serving of salami is around four to five slices. And a lot of people eat more than that in one serving. Well, one serving of salami has 450 milligrams of sodium. Now, take that and add it to a sandwich and we have bread, you have cheese, you might have pickles, you might have mayonnaise and other condiments. Well, now you're really increasing the sodium and you're increasing some of the trans fats, and some of the saturated fats.
And so, again, eat everything in moderation, but in general, if you have high blood pressure, you want to watch these deli meats. And this could be a food you want to avoid having in excess.
Now, you know, a lot of folks love pickles. They like pickles plain. Sour pickles. They like hot pickles, and pickles on their sandwiches. But guess what? Pickles can be a food you want to avoid if you have high blood pressure, this is why.
First, a positive, let's be positive for a second, pickles tend to have zero fat. They have zero or very low calories. So that's a positive. But let me tell you something. You've hit the motherload of sodium if you're eating a lot of pickles! So if you look at three medium pickles, they tend to have almost 3,000 milligrams of sodium, but let's just look at one pickle, okay?
A sour pickle. One sour pickle soaking in the juices has 300 milligrams of sodium. Let's take a look at another type of pickle. Y'all know you've seen these at the gas stations and the grocery store. So one serving has 300 milligrams. It doesn't seem so bad, right? But guess how many servings are in just one pickle. Five!
You know good and well, this pickle is not gonna serve five people. So you multiply that out. 300 milligrams times five. This one pickle has 1,500 milligrams of sodium. You eat this pickle, you've already gone through your whole day's worth of sodium. And so you have to pay attention. If you have high blood pressure, pickles are food you want to avoid.
Cheers! Hmm, but not so fast. Why? Because alcohol in excess can increase your blood pressure, and exacerbate high blood pressure. So it's something you want to avoid having in excess. Not only can it increase your high blood pressure, but it can also, in excess, damage the walls of your blood vessels.
Now, in order to learn just how much alcohol is considered to be reasonable, if you have high blood pressure, please make sure you check out my YouTube video "How To Lower Blood Pressure Naturally."
Remember that when we talk about drinks, a drink is not arbitrary. Drinks sizes have definitions. So if you are recommended to have one drink or less per day, or two drinks or less per day, depending on if you're male or female, and your age, the drinks have specific definitions.
For example, if we're dealing with wine, we're talking about five or eight ounces, that's considered a drink, okay? If we're talking about something that is maybe heavier, like an 80-proof liquor, then we're talking about 1.5 ounces of alcohol. You don't just pour a whole tumbler of dark liquor and say, "Oh, it's one tumbler. That's one drink." No, there's a definition.
And then if you're going to have yourself a beer, we're talking 12 ounces, that's one drink. And so again, make sure to keep track of the appropriate drink sizes.
Condiments are not just a free for all. You want to avoid certain condiments, and certainly in excess if you have high blood pressure. So let's talk about some of these.
Mustard's actually not so bad. One teaspoon of mustard only has 55 milligrams of sodium. But just in general, just be cognizant of how much you're using.
One tablespoon of ketchup, it varies, but it can have up to 196 milligrams of sodium. Now you think about yourself when you're eating burgers and fries, and you're squirting ketchup on all of your things, and just dipping it like there is no tomorrow. You know good and well, you're dealing with more than one tablespoon of ketchup. And so if you may have two tablespoons, three tablespoons, or even five tablespoons, right? And even several times a day, it really adds up.
One tablespoon of mayonnaise has about 95 milligrams of sodium. But it also has 11 grams of fat in just one tablespoon. And again, if you're someone who's eating, you know, macaroni or pasta salad, or you're putting mayonnaise on your burgers or on your sandwiches, that fat can really add up. If you're someone who's eating a lot of fats, especially trans fat, and saturated fats, that can lead to you being overweight or a person living with obesity, which of course will exacerbate high blood pressure.
How many of you have hot sauce in your bag swag? Well, hot sauce is something you want to avoid. One teaspoon, not a tablespoon. One teaspoon of hot sauce has 190 milligrams of sodium. And when's the last time you only used one little teaspoon of hot sauce?
Most people get the hot sauce and just dump it all over things like fried fish. You dump it on your eggs, you dump it on your collard greens. And you don't think about it because you're like, "Oh, it doesn't have a lot of calories." And so you think it's a freebie.
But if you have high blood pressure, hot sauce is something that you want to avoid. Again, everything should be in moderation and consult with your dieticians and your physician, but you certainly want to be aware that these condiments can exacerbate high blood pressure if used in excess.
6. Red Meat
Ah, but you know, all red meats are not created equally. I'm specifically talking about marbled, fatty, red meats, such as a rib-eye steak. When you're looking at red meat, when you have something that's marbled and fatty, and seasoned really well, like an 18-ounce rib-eye for example, or one of these cowboy rib-eyes like they serve at restaurants, just one rib eye can be almost 1,200 calories! It can have 80 grams of fat. And again, if we're talking about trans fat and saturated fats. That's not good. And sodium, when it's seasoned really well and you've got an 18-ounce steak, you can have almost 1,200 milligrams of sodium!
And so if you have high blood pressure, you want to avoid red meat, especially if it's marbled and fatty. Now, if you are going to have red meat, then you certainly want to consider something that's lean like a lean sirloin, or something without a lot of fat. And you want to cook it at home where you can season it yourself to avoid excess sodium.
7. Processed Foods
If you have high blood pressure, you certainly want to avoid a lot of processed foods. They tend to be high in sodium and, you know, this is something that helps to keep them preserved. So let's look at some processed foods to avoid.
Cured Meats, Like Bacon
Who doesn't love bacon? Oh, my gosh. Three slices of bacon can be almost 300 milligrams of sodium and almost five grams of fat. A lot of people tend to eat more than just three slices of bacon. And so that's something you want to avoid, especially in excess if you have high blood pressure.
Even a beef hot dog or a beef kosher hot dog has as much as 790 milligrams of sodium. And so that's something you want to avoid if you have high blood pressure.
Again, remember, according to the American Heart Association, if you have high blood pressure, you should be taking in less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium in a whole day, not just in one meal.
Noodles! Oh, my gosh. A lot of people love those noodles. You know, they are very inexpensive and very easy to make. You add that seasoning packet to them. Well, first of all, processed noodles tend to be high in fat, especially saturated fats. And then that one little seasoning packet, that innocent-looking little seasoning packet has over 1,500 milligrams of sodium in most cases. And so if you have high blood pressure, and you just use that one packet and you've already surpassed your day's worth of sodium!
And so, processed foods are something you want to avoid if you have high blood pressure.
8. Plant-Based Pre-Packaged Frozen Foods
A lot of folks who are vegetarian just assume that as soon as they take on that lifestyle, everything is all of a sudden 100% healthy. Being vegetarian and especially vegan is a heart-healthy lifestyle. Certainly much more healthy than eating a lot of animal fats and things of that nature. No question about it.
But if you have high blood pressure, you still have to watch certain plant-based foods. Why? Because some will be loaded with sodium, which of course is not good for your blood pressure. So which ones am I talking about? I'm talking about some of the prepackaged frozen vegetarian foods. So let's just take a look at some of these vegetarian choices.
Vegetarian Chicken Nuggets
That sounds pretty good. Right? Vegetarian chicken nuggets. And one serving is 300 milligrams of sodium. Doesn't sound so bad, right? But what's a serving? A serving is four nuggets. Now, if you are a full-grown person or even if you are a growing child or growing teenager, you know good and well, you're going to have more than these little four tiny nuggets, aren't you?
Well, say you want eight nuggets or say you want a 12 piece of nuggets. Once you get it to the 12th piece, you're already at 900 milligrams of sodium in one meal! And so you want to make sure you're careful. And if you're plant-based, you want to try to avoid having a lot of prepackaged frozen plant-based foods.
Plant-Based Corn Dogs
One serving is 480 milligrams of sodium. But what's a serving? A serving is one corn dog. Who's gonna eat just one corn dog? I don't know, not me. So if you have one corn dog, that's 480 milligrams of sodium. But what if you want two? What if you want three? Well, after two, you're already up to almost 1,000 milligrams of sodium! If you go beyond that, you get the point.
So even if you are plant-based and doing the heart-healthy thing, I commend you. But with the prepackaged frozen vegetarian meals, you have to watch the ones with high sodium.
9. Fast Food
Now, you already know if you are a person with high blood pressure and you are around here smacking on fast food, cheeseburgers, fries, chicken tenders, and fried cheese curds, I do not even have to go into detail. These are foods that you need to avoid.
But let's just take one large cheeseburger from a fast food place. One large fast-food cheeseburger has around 940 milligrams of sodium! And you know you don't eat the cheeseburger alone, you get yourself a large fry. Now you're dealing with another almost 400 milligrams of sodium. And I haven't even gone into the soft drinks that are filled with sodium. And so if you have high blood pressure and even if you don't, fast foods, that's something you want to avoid.
10. Microwave Meals
Do you remember the good old-fashioned TV dinner? Yeah, people used to have TV dinners, and they would get those little trays that you can take to the couch and sit in the TV room. You put your little TV dinner there. TV dinners can be, you know, a bit deceptive because they have their vegetables, even two vegetables, in this case, they have your protein.
If you're not careful, you might mess around and think you're doing a healthy substitute, but you're not! Because if you have high blood pressure, these microwave meals or TV dinners, they're something you want to avoid. Let's just take this one for example. We have corn. We have mashed potatoes. Yes, another starch. We have fried chicken. Mm-hmm. This 1,190 milligrams of sodium. Yeah, that's a lot of salt.
So it's something you want to avoid. But even for certain microwave meals that aren't so obvious, if you're someone who's trying to be low calorie and healthy, you might get yourself something that is a really a smaller portion than that, something that is packaged and advertised as being lean or weight-friendly, and it may have not so many calories. But that same meal could still have a lot of sodium, 300 milligrams or 400 milligrams! Just to be sure, anytime you're dealing with frozen foods or microwave meals, you still want to watch the sodium content.
11. High Sodium Snacks
High sodium snacks like chips for example can be very high in sodium. Potato chips, even the small snack-sized bags, can get you in trouble. They look pretty innocent, right? They're not that big, right? How much salt can they possibly have? 250 milligrams, in this little tiny bag that's half-filled!
So imagine if you're just sitting around and you're going through your child's lunchbox. And you're like, "Oh, they left their chips." You're on the phone. You're not paying attention. Eat a little bag of chips, and that's 250 milligrams of sodium. You eat another one because the conversation was good. It's getting juicy. Another 250 milligrams of sodium, right? So now that's 500 milligrams from just a high sodium snack or two.
So if you have high blood pressure, trust me, high sodium snacks are something you want to avoid.
I know I keep mentioning don't, don't, don't. That's what this whole article is about, right? Foods to avoid if you have high blood pressure. But make sure you check out my YouTube video on seven low sodium foods that can help to improve your heart health after you finish reading this article.
12. High Sugar Foods
You want to avoid a lot of high sugar foods if you have high blood pressure. A lot of sugar can lead to you being a person who's overweight or a person living with obesity, which again can exacerbate high blood pressure.
You know the usual suspects, having a lot of candy, you want to avoid it. Or donuts and other baked goods. Let's take a look at the sodium content in one donut. Who doesn't love a good donut? And you know there are certain brands, ooh, especially when they make them fresh and hot where the donuts are delicious. But guess what? Don't be fooled by this innocent-looking donut. One large donut can have over 300 milligrams of sodium and over 300 calories! It can also have over 40% fat and over 50% carbs. And in general, especially if you have high blood pressure, it's just not your friend.
13. Frozen Diet Meals
I just want to reiterate, that when you are dealing with foods that you think that just because they're low calorie, that they are healthy, you still want to pay attention because a lot of these frozen diet meals will be high in sodium. Just watch the labels.
14. Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken noodle soup for the soul, or if you're sick, you get chicken noodle soup. But if you're dealing with canned chicken noodle soup, you want to avoid it. Because just one can of chicken noodle soup or some of the processed chicken noodle soups that are just sitting there with a, who knows how long shelf life at the grocery store. One can or one bowl of this soup can be over 1,800 milligrams of sodium! And so if you have high blood pressure, then canned or processed chicken noodle soup is another food you want to avoid.
15. Fried Foods
I would be remiss if I did not mention fried foods. You already know if you investigate something fried that you are eating, you know that it is loaded with sodium, loaded with trans fats, and saturated fats. And if you have high blood pressure, fried foods are something you simply want to avoid.
So let's just take a look at fried chicken. We know that white meat tends to be a little healthier than dark meat. And so some people will think that if they are choosing to have white meat as their fried chicken, that they're doing a great thing. Well, let's break it down.
If you have one fried chicken wing, that's 680 milligrams of sodium! If you have fried breast, that's 1,230 milligrams of sodium! Are you starting to get the picture? If you have high blood pressure, fried foods are something that you want to avoid.
At this point, I've mentioned 15 foods you want to avoid if you have high blood pressure, but I'm just getting started. The list goes on and on, you probably have all kinds of questions. Well, if indeed you do, I want you to be sure that you check out my video on the top 21 questions I get asked most frequently by patients about high blood pressure.
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And most certainly, be sure to order my book "Under Pressure: A Guide To Controlling High Blood Pressure."