Eating with High Blood Pressure: Food and Drinks to Avoid

Diet can have a big impact on your blood pressure. Salty and sugary foods, and foods high in saturated fats, can increase blood pressure. Avoiding them can help you get and maintain a healthy blood pressure.

If you have high blood pressure, the American Heart Association recommend eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains.

At the same time, they recommend avoiding red meat, salt (sodium), and foods and drinks that contain added sugars. These foods can keep your blood pressure elevated.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects about 45%Trusted Source of Americans. Hypertension can cause health problems over time, including heart disease and stroke.

This article looks at what foods to avoid or limit if you have high blood pressure, along with ideas for a heart-healthy eating pattern.

1. Salt or sodium

Salt, or specifically the sodium in salt, is a major contributorTrusted Source to high blood pressure and heart disease. This is because of how it affects fluid balance in the blood.

Table salt is around 40% sodium. The AHA recommend getting no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium — the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of salt — each day.

Most of the sodium in the American diet comes from packaged, processed food rather than what you add at the table. Sodium may be hidden in unexpected places.

The following foods, known as the “salty six,” are major contributors to people’s daily salt intake:

  • breads and rolls
  • pizza
  • sandwiches
  • cold cuts and cured meats
  • soup
  • burritos and tacos

Read more about the benefits and risks of eating salt here.

2. Deli meat

Processed deli and lunch meats are often packed with sodium. That’s because manufacturers cure, season, and preserve these meats with salt.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) database, just two slices of bologna contain 910 mgTrusted Source of sodium. One frankfurter, or hot dog, contains 567 mgTrusted Source.

Adding other high-salt foods, such as bread, cheese, various condiments, and pickles, mean that a sandwich can become loaded with sodium very easily.

Read more about how processed meat affects health here.

3. Frozen pizza

The combination of ingredients in frozen pizzas means they’re high in sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. Frozen pizza can have especially high levels of sodium.

Cheese is often high in sodium, with just two slices of American cheese containing 512 mgTrusted Source of sodium. This is generally in combination with a salty or sugary pizza dough and crust, cured meats, and tomato sauce.

To maintain flavor in the pizza once it’s been cooked, manufacturers often add a lot of salt.

One 12 inch pepperoni pizza, cooked from frozen, contains 3,140 mgTrusted Source of sodium, which is well above the daily limit of 2,300 mg.

As a substitute, try making a healthful pizza at home, using homemade dough, low-sodium cheese, and your favorite vegetables as toppings.

Get some tips for making a healthful pizza here.

4. Pickles

Preserving any food requires salt. It stops the food from decaying and keeps it edible for longer.

The longer vegetables sit in canning and preserving liquids, the more sodium they pick up.

One small pickled cucumber contains 447 mgTrusted Source of sodium.

That said, reduced-sodium options are available.


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5. Canned soups

Canned coups are simple and easy to prepare, especially when you’re crunched for time or not feeling well.

However, canned soups are high in sodium. Canned and packaged broths and stocks may contain similar amounts. This means they can elevate your blood pressure.

One can of tomato soup contains 1,110 mgTrusted Source of sodium, while a can of chicken and vegetable soup contains 2,140 mgTrusted Source.

Try choosing low- or reduced-sodium soups instead, or make your own soup at home from fresh ingredients.

6. Canned tomato products

Most canned tomato sauces, pasta sauces, and tomato juices are high in sodium. This means that they can cause raise your blood pressure, especially if you already have high blood pressure.

One serving (135 g) of marinara sauce contains 566 mgTrusted Source of sodium. One cup of tomato juice contains 615 mgTrusted Source.

You can find low- or reduced-sodium versions for most tomato products.

To lower your blood pressure, choose these alternatives or use fresh tomatoes, which are rich in an antioxidant called lycopene. Fresh vegetables have many benefits for heart health.

7. Sugar

Sugar can increase your blood pressure in several ways.

Research shows that sugar — and especially sugar-sweetened drinks — contributes to weight gain in adults and children. Overweight and obesity predisposeTrusted Source people to high blood pressure.

Added sugar may also have a direct effect on increasing blood pressure, according to a 2014 review.

One study in females with high blood pressure reported that decreasing sugar by 2.3 teaspoons could result in an 8.4 mmHg drop in systolic and a 3.7 mmHg drop in diastolic blood pressure.

The AHA recommends the following daily added sugar limits:

  • 6 teaspoons, or 25 grams, for females
  • 9 teaspoons, or 36 grams, for males

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8. Processed foods with trans or saturated fat

To keep the heart healthy, people should reduce saturated fats and avoid trans fats. This is especially true for people with high blood pressure.

Trans fats are artificial fats that increase packaged foods’ shelf life and stability.

However, they also raiseTrusted Source your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels, which can increase the risk of hypertension.

Saturated fats also increaseTrusted Source the levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood.

Trans fats are especially poor for your health and are linked withTrusted Source poor heart health, including an increased risk of:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • type 2 diabetes

Packaged, pre-prepared foods often contain trans fats and saturated fats, alongside high amounts of sugar, sodium, and low-fiber carbohydrates.

Saturated fats are mostly found in animal products, including:

  • full-fat milk and cream
  • butter
  • red meat
  • chicken skin

The AHA recommends reducing intake of both saturated and trans fats to help keep the heart healthy.

One way to reduce your saturated fat intake is to replace some animal foods with healthful plant-based alternatives.

Many plant-based foods contain healthful monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Examples of plant-based foods include:

According to some researchTrusted Source, full-fat dairy doesn’t raise blood pressure.

9. Alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol can increaseTrusted Source your blood pressure.

If you have high blood pressure, your doctor might recommend that you reduce the amount of alcohol you drink.

In people who do not have hypertension, limiting alcohol intake can help reduce their risk of developing high blood pressure.

Alcohol can also preventTrusted Source any blood pressure medications that you may be taking from working effectively through drug interactions.

In addition, many alcoholic drinks are high in sugar and calories. Drinking alcohol can contributeTrusted Source to overweight and obesity, which can increase the risk of hypertension.

If you drink, the AHA recommends limiting your alcohol intake to two drinks per day for males and one drink per day for females.

If cutting back on alcohol is difficult, talk to your doctor for advice.

What are the best diets for high blood pressure?

Following a heart-heathy diet can actively reduce your blood pressure, both in the short term and long term.

Foods that contain potassium can quicklyTrusted Source reduce blood pressure, because potassium offsets the effects of sodium.

Foods that contain nitrates can reduceTrusted Source blood pressure, too, including beets and pomegranate juice. These foods also contain other health-healthy components, including antioxidants and fiber.

Read about the best foods for high blood pressure here.

The AHA recommends following the DASH diet to help manage blood pressure. DASH stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension.

This diet involves eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein to help reduce blood pressure and maintain healthy levels.

When choosing canned or processed foods, opt for reduced-sodium, no-sodium, or trans fat-free options.

The bottom line

Diet can have a big impact on your blood pressure.

Foods high in salt, sugar, and saturated or trans fats can increase blood pressure and damage your heart health. By avoiding these foods, you can keep your blood pressure in check.

A diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help keep your heart healthy.

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