There’s a lot of information available about the DASH diet or other ways you can lower blood pressure through food, but what about foods that raise blood pressure instead? There are plenty of foods that raise blood pressure naturally or as a result of how they have been prepared or processed.
Some foods can raise blood pressure quickly after eating them, while others only cause minor gains.
A few foods only raise low blood pressure, meaning that they don’t have much of an effect unless your blood pressure is at a certain level, so you can eat them without much worry unless you are hypotensive (in which case you’d likely want something that works to raise blood pressure faster than food).
Foods that Raise Blood Pressure: What to Avoid
Any form of processed meat should be avoided, since deli and lunch meats, including bacon, are extremely high in sodium—around 600 milligrams or more per two ounces of meat. Whether it’s cold cuts, turkey slices, bacon strips, or roast meat, if it’s from the deli it has likely been cured, seasoned, or otherwise preserved using a great deal of salt.
Pickling anything involves soaking it in a brine, and a brine is basically salt water—extremely fancy salt water that probably has other ingredients in it, but salt water all the same. Although you should stay away from any pickled food as a result, cucumbers in particular are very good at sucking up salt from the brine. A single dill pickle spear can have up to 300 milligrams of sodium. Avoid these or look for low-sodium varieties.
Salt is a significant ingredient in canned soups or broths, and depending on the brand and type you could be getting a massive 2,225 milligrams of sodium from the entire dish. Since canned soup is very affordable and easy to prepare, it can be hard to find a good substitute. Fortunately low-sodium variants exist, but be sure to read the labels so you can be certain of what’s going into your body.
Whether it’s in the form of tomato juice, pasta sauce, or a puree, almost any canned or bottled tomato product contains a lot of sodium. A cup of tomato juice, for example, contains 650 milligrams.
Chicken skin, especially if it’s from a packaged meat, may be tasty, but it’s also very high in saturated fats, trans fats, and hydrogenated oils that build up your LDL cholesterol level. High cholesterol, of course, is a big driver of high blood pressure and can worsen or potentially cause hypertension.
Whether you should abstain from coffee depends on how much you normally drink and how frequently. Coffee is capable of producing a spike in your blood pressure for a short period after drinking, but the effect wears off relatively quickly. In regular coffee drinkers, this effect is lessened or nonexistent as their bodies get used to the caffeine. If you are not hypertensive and drink a cup or two each day like clockwork, you can likely continue to do so. If you are hypertensive or a caffeine junkie, cutting back or avoiding is advisable.
This is another mixed bag. Small to moderate amounts of alcohol either do not impact blood pressure or actually lower it, depending on the study consulted. You may have heard of this effect in the idea that a glass of red wine each day can lower your risk of heart disease. Regardless of what possible effects low levels of alcohol may have, the effect of a large amount on blood pressure is much clearer: having more than three drinks in a single sitting will cause a temporary increase.
As an additional concern for anyone with hypertension, alcohol is capable with interfering with a number of drugs including blood pressure medications. If you take any medicine for your blood pressure then it’s best to remain the designated driver.
Croissants, cakes, cookies, rolls, muffins, and danishes are delicious but potentially rich in things like sodium, butter, sugar, and saturated fats. This goes double if these goods are glazed or otherwise coated in icing. These are foods that raise blood sugar as well as blood pressure. Since it can be hard to restrict your diet without some form of treat, look for low-fat and low-sugar options at the grocery store and take care to read the labels.
Unless you make it yourself at home, stay away from Chinese dishes in restaurants or stores. Things like beef with broccoli or even some noodles may seem minor, but some Chinese food contains truly terrifying levels of salt. Soy sauce or teriyaki can have around 1,000 milligrams of sodium in a single tablespoon and some Chinese dishes have over two days’ worth of salt in them.
Steaks and roasts can be succulent and rich, but are also very fatty and laden with cholesterol. When trying to keep blood pressure in mind, avoid all but the extra-lean cuts and even then keep those to a minimum.
Foods to Eat to Lower High Blood Pressure
Now that we’ve seen a list of foods that raise blood pressure, it’s time to look at foods that lower blood pressure. The DASH diet is a good model to use when looking for blood pressure–friendly eating options. While you take steps to minimize the presence of the above foods in your diet, try to increase or emphasize the following:
- Whole grains such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta;
- Carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes (especially purple ones), green leafy vegetables, and tomatoes (non-canned);
- Apples, pears, peaches, mangoes, and bananas (you can have citrus, but be aware that it may interact with some hypertension medications);
- Lean poultry or fish;
- Skim milk and low-fat cheeses or yogurt; and
- Almonds, kidney beans, or lentils (nuts are high in calories but contain the good kind of cholesterol, so enjoy in moderation).
Lifestyle Changes to Make
Other than dietary changes, two of the best lifestyle choices you can make when worried about hypertension are to improve physical activity and take measures to reduce your weight. Staying active—at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week—helps keep your cardiovascular system strong and improves the flexibility and function of your arteries and blood vessels. Losing weight also works to reduce the strain on your circulatory system, but only if you’re overweight. Fortunately, a blood pressure–friendly diet and some regular exercise can be a good way to shed some pounds.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Fukushima, K., “15 Foods to Avoid if You Have High Blood Pressure,” The Street web site, October 28, 2014; http://www.thestreet.com/story/12924541/1/10-foods-to-avoid-if-you-have-high-blood-pressure.html, last accessed March 31, 2016.
Holland, K., “Eating with High Blood Pressure: Food and Drink to Avoid,” Healthline web site, last reviewed September 9, 2013; http://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/foods-to-avoid#Overview1, last accessed March 31, 2016.
“DASH diet: Healthy eating to lower your blood pressure,” Mayo Clinic web site, May 15, 2013; http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456, last accessed March 31, 2016.