Eating Well with High Blood Pressure

If you have high blood pressure, you know that keeping it in a healthy range is important. High blood pressure can raise your risk for stroke, heart disease, kidney failure, and congestive heart failure.

But you can take steps to get your blood pressure under control. Take your medications as directed, get some exercise every day, and choose healthy foods.

Choosing Healthy Foods

Certain foods can affect your blood pressure levels. Studies show that eating too much sodium can raise blood pressure in some people.

Sodium is one of the main ingredients in table salt. It is found naturally in most foods. But, most of the sodium you eat is added to your food when it is made in a factory or restaurant. So it’s easy to get more than you need.

To keep your blood pressure in a healthy range, try not to eat more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. That’s less than 1 teaspoon of salt, which has about 2,400 mg of sodium.

But how do you know how much sodium a food has in it?

Food nutrition labels are a good place to start. Food nutrition labels show how much sodium, cholesterol, dietary fiber, and calories are in each serving. They will also tell you how many servings are in each container, as well as how many different types of fat.

You’ll find a lot of sodium in deli meats like turkey, pastrami, and bologna. Canned meat, cured meat, and sausages are also high in salt. Beware of any meat packed or "injected" with salt water. Cheddar, American, and parmesan cheeses are salty. As are macaroni and cheese, Alfredo sauce, and pesto.

You’ll find a lot of salt in condiments like ketchup, barbecue sauce, and soy sauce. You can even find it in bread, buns, and snacks like pretzels, popcorn, and chips.

Pretty much anything that comes in a box, jar, or can will have a lot of salt. That includes pickles, soup, flavored rice mixes, and even frozen vegetables with flavorings or sauce.

And, everybody’s favorite -- pizza -- is one of the worst. One large slice of pepperoni pizza can have more than 700 mg [milligrams] of sodium. That’s far beyond the limit of no more than 480 mg per serving.

But don’t worry! You don’t have to give up everything on this list. Besides, you have plenty of delicious low-salt foods to choose from.

And, you will learn that your favorites taste great when cooked with less salt.

Cooking with Less Salt

Lots of low-salt foods are delicious. And, eating them will help you control your blood pressure. Some examples are fresh beef, poultry, pork, and fish. Also try fresh or plain frozen veggies, and fruit -- fresh, frozen, or canned without sodium.

You can flavor your favorite dishes with herbs, spices, vinegar, or lemon juice. And, you can buy low-sodium versions of many of your favorite canned and boxed foods.

You can also get unsalted nuts, crackers, seeds, and popcorn. Add your own salt and seasonings to keep the sodium levels down.

Here are a few more Easy Food Swaps: [Easy Food Swaps]

  • Swap deli ham for low-sodium turkey slices

  • Swap regular canned soup for low-sodium canned or homemade soup

  • Swap frozen broccoli with sauce for fresh steamed broccoli with herbs and a dash of butter

  • Swap cheddar cheese for low-sodium Swiss cheese

  • Swap a frozen dinner for a salt-free slow cooker meal

You can find lots of ways to lower sodium in your diet by checking out the DASH diet or the American Heart Association websites.

Now, it all sounds like a lot, so remember these 5 Tips for Eating Well with High Blood Pressure:

5 Tips to Eating Well with High Blood Pressure

  • Read nutrition labels to check the sodium content of foods,

  • Look for "low-sodium," "no salt" added, and "unsalted" on labels,

  • Choose fresh foods over canned or boxed foods,

  • Use spices, herbs, and vinegars to flavor food, instead of salt, and

  • Try not to eat more than 1,500 mg of sodium each day.

So, whether you’re cooking at home, or eating out, there are simple steps you can take to help control your high blood pressure -- and now you know how!