Today we're going to discuss how to read nutrition facts labels when you have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease, strokes, and kidney failure. And according to the CDC, nearly half of the adults in the United States have high blood pressure, yet only about one in four have it under control. This is largely because your nutrition plays a major role in controlling your high blood pressure. But in order to control your high blood pressure, it's important that you control the foods that you put in your mouth. Many people really want to make good choices when it comes to eating, but nutrition fact labels can often be tricky to read and misleading. So today we're going to talk about it so that you can learn how to make more informed choices about the foods that you eat.
How Do You Know If You Have High Blood Pressure?
How do you know if I'm even talking to you? Well, when it comes to your blood pressure reading, if that systolic blood pressure or that top number is 130 or greater, or if that diastolic blood pressure, the bottom number is 80 or greater, then by definition you have high blood pressure. Please be sure to watch my video on 10 foods to avoid if you have high blood pressure after you finish reading this article.
Hypertension is the second leading cause of my putting patients on dialysis in my nephrology clinic. So it's a big deal. The wonderful thing is that you do have some control when it comes to managing your high blood pressure and it largely is in your nutrition. So let's talk about it. Let's talk about how to read these nutrition facts labels and which facts are actually on these labels.
How To Read Nutrition Facts Labels: What To Look For
When you pick up a nutrition facts label and start reading it, you're going to see the serving size, calories, total fat, saturated fats, cholesterol, and more. You'll also see the sodium, dietary fibers, sugars, proteins, and total carbohydrates. These are all the things that we'll be touching on today and very important facts when it comes to managing your high blood pressure.
10 Important Things to Look For On Food Labels If You Have High Blood Pressure:
1. Serving Size
Let's start with that serving size because that's really the key. You want to know what the company deems a serving so you can compare it with what you think of as a serving. Because a lot of times, you may think a serving is much, much bigger than what they are allotting in their serving size, and you may think that you're taking in much less sodium, and much fewer calories than you actually are. Case in point. Let's take a look at a can of some greens. When you think about collard greens, you probably think, "Ah, that's pretty healthy."
Well, in a can of pre-prepared collard greens, they have sodium, and they have 750 milligrams of sodium per serving. Now, if you're deciding you want to have like a vegetarian lunch, you may go ahead and eat that whole can and think, "Okay, it's a vegetable, it's healthy. Hey, that's great." And you look at the serving size, and you're like, "Hmm, not so sure about that."
But it only has 750 milligrams of sodium per serving. Now, mind you, according to the American Heart Association, most adults should be having less than 1500 milligrams of sodium per day. So you look, you say, "Okay, 750 milligrams of sodium." But let's talk about the serving size. In this one can of greens, there are 6.5 servings!
Now, you know that's not probably what you think of as a serving. So if you multiply that out, the 6.5 servings times the 750 milligrams per serving, you're talking about over 4,800 milligrams of sodium just in this one can of what you thought were healthy greens. The point is that if you don't dissect the serving size, you'll have difficulty. So when you look at the serving size, make sure that for each nutrition fact that you look at, you go back and you multiply it out, and so that you're not underestimating whatever nutrition you're taking in.
If you have high blood pressure, you definitely want to have low sodium. Again, the American Heart Association recommends that most adults have less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. So make sure that when you're looking at the labels, try to find foods that say low sodium or no sodium added, and still go in, look at the serving size, look at the sodium, in order to maintain a proper amount of sodium in your diet.
When you're looking at nutrition labels, try to take in foods that are low in calories. Now, consult with your physician or your dietician to find out what's recommended for you. But when you're eating foods that are high in calories that can lead to weight gain, which can contribute to you being a person living with obesity, which of course can put you at higher risk for high blood pressure.
Let's say you have a sweet tooth and you want to grab something like sandwich cookies. You know those little cookies with the cream in the middle, and you may grab a six-pack of cookies. And if you look at the nutrition label, it might say something like calories 77. But you have to go back to that serving size. And what do they consider a serving? One cookie. You know, good and well, you're gonna eat more than one cookie. So then you have to multiply it out.
If you're planning on eating all six of those cookies, which is probably not a good idea, that is 77 times the 6 cookies and you're up to almost 500 calories. So make sure that if you're a person with high blood pressure, you try to eat low-calorie foods so that you can maintain low or normal blood pressure.
Potassium is a mineral, a wonderful mineral actually, which can help to lower blood pressure because the more potassium you take in, the more sodium or salt you urinate out and that can help with your blood pressure. The average healthy American, according to the USDA, should have 4.7 grams of potassium per day. Now, there is a caveat to this. If you have advanced kidney disease or chronic kidney disease, you may actually have to limit the potassium in your diet because if your kidneys are not working properly, you may not be able to excrete or get rid of potassium in the way that you should and you may be limited to two grams of potassium or less. Be sure to consult with your physician.
But for healthy adults who have no issues with potassium excretion, or if you're not taking a medicine that will cause you to have high potassium, then the average healthy adult should have 4.7 grams of potassium per day, and this high potassium diet can help you to lower your blood pressure naturally.
When you look at the nutrition facts label, fiber is your friend. Foods that are high in fiber can help you to lower blood pressure and they can help to reduce your risk for heart disease. So you want to choose foods that are high in fiber like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. According to the USDA, the average female should have 25 grams of fiber per day. The average male should have 38 grams of fiber per day.
Magnesium is a mineral that can also help to lower blood pressure naturally and help to reduce your risk for heart disease. And so you want to look for foods that are high in magnesium when you're looking at those nutrition facts labels, such as nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. The daily recommended intake for magnesium for average healthy adults is between 400 to 420 milligrams of magnesium a day for men and 300 to 320 milligrams of magnesium a day for women. Again, if you have certain diseases such as advanced kidney disease, you may need to limit the magnesium in your diet. Be sure to consult with your physician and your dietician.
7. Total and Saturated Fats
Another part of the nutrition label is total and saturated fats. You want to be sure to have foods that are low in saturated fats in order to help to maintain a normal blood pressure. If you have foods that are high in saturated fats, it can lead to high blood pressure, and heart disease. You also want to be sure that less than 10% of the calories you consume have saturated fats. So if you're dealing with a 2000-calorie-a-day diet, you want less than 200 of those calories to consist of saturated fats.
You also want to look at the cholesterol on the label and have a low-cholesterol diet. When you have a diet that's high in cholesterol, this waxy fat cholesterol can stick to inflamed blood vessels. It can lead to the narrowing of the arteries which can worsen high blood pressure. So if you have hypertension, you want to have a low-cholesterol diet. Be sure to watch my video on how to unclog your arteries naturally after you finish reading this article.
9. Total Carbohydrates
Total carbohydrates can worsen your high blood pressure. So when you look at that nutrition facts label, try to find foods that are low in total carbohydrates, especially refined or processed. You want to avoid having a lot of added sugar because again, this can worsen your hypertension. You want to choose foods that are high in fiber, and high in protein when you're looking at those nutrition facts labels and making your choices.
Make sure you look for any hidden ingredients that just should not be in your foods. You want to look for foods that have a shorter ingredient list because they will be less likely to have a lot of added or processed foods. Look for words like whole, and natural, which will help to give you the idea that they're less likely to be processed.
You also want to know the different names of sugar. So it might not just outright say sugar, it may say high fructose corn syrup, or it may say maltose or brown sugar, or it may have a name that just doesn't sound familiar to you. Make sure that you research the ingredients that are on your food labels and do this in order to help to maintain lower blood pressure.
So as you can see, being a nutrition facts label watcher is very important in managing your blood pressure. It can be tricky. The labels can be misleading. Make sure you always look at those serving sizes and take that extra step to do the math, so that you know that what you're ingesting is actually good for your blood pressure.
Be sure to consult with your physician and your dietician to find out what nutrition quantities are proper for you. If you found this article to be helpful and informative please be sure to share it with those you care about. Also, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel if you haven't done so already. I appreciate the support and I want you to do your best to live your healthiest, happiest life. Be a label watcher to maintain healthy blood pressure.