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High Blood Pressure Diet

Updated 09/21/2018
Category: Diet

Diseases of the heart and blood vessels are the number one cause of death in the United States. People with hypertension, or high blood pressure, are more likely to develop these diseases. Therefore, it is important to try to lower elevated blood pressure.

Hypertension cannot be cured in most cases. It can be successfully managed with lifestyle changes and/or medication. Reducing the amount of sodium in the diet can help bring blood pressure levels down.

Nutrition Facts

With proper food selection, a diet for high blood pressure can be varied and adequate in all nutrients, including vitamins and minerals.

The Role of Sodium

Sodium, of course, is essential for good health. While American adults average 4,000 to 6,000 milligrams daily, the recommended daily limit for the general public is only 2,300 milligrams. Someone with high blood pressure should consult a doctor to see how much sodium should be consumed daily. As a guide, however, 2,000 to 3,000 milligrams (2 to 3 grams) is enough.

A common dietary source of sodium is salt. Sodium is one of two minerals that make up salt (the other is chloride). One teaspoon of salt contains a whopping 2,300 milligrams of sodium & a dash is an entire day’s supply! But sodium is also “hidden” in the diet in other foods, mainly processed and packaged foods.

What Food Labels Mean With Regard To Sodium
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has developed these definitions that appear on food packages to assist consumers watching their sodium intake:

  • “low sodium” means the food has 140 milligrams or less of sodium per serving
  • “very low sodium” means the food has 35 milligrams or less of sodium per serving
  • “salt-free” means the food has 5 milligrams or less of sodium per serving
  • “light in sodium” means the food has at least 50% less sodium than the original version of the food
  • “reduced sodium” means the food has at least 25% less sodium than the original version of the product
Special Consideration
Read food labels. Most sodium in the American diet comes from processed foods. Check the nutrition facts label for sodium content. Select foods labeled low-sodium, very low sodium, or salt-free, and watch out for ingredients that indicate high sodium content. Here’s a clue: any ingredient with the word sodium in it, such as disodium phosphate, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium benzoate, sodium hydroxide, sodium nitrite, sodium propionate, and sodium sulfate, means that the food likely has a high sodium content. Baked goods made with baking powder or baking soda may also be high in sodium.

Limit consumption of high-sodium processed foods. These include cured and smoked meats, and some pre-packaged, frozen and canned foods, most soups, and condiments.

Remove the salt shaker from the table and make meals tasty and flavorful with herbs and spices. While cooking, experiment with fresh and dried herbs, such as onions, garlic, basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary, black and red pepper, and onion and garlic powders. These all add flavor without adding sodium.

Beware of salt substitutes. Not all salt substitutes are sodium-free. Some contain sodium, but in a lesser amount than regular table salt. Read the labels, and if you take medication for your blood pressure, consult your doctor before using a salt substitute.

Maintain a healthy body weight and exercise regularly. Maintaining a healthy body weight and exercising are both very important in controlling blood pressure. If you are overweight, just a modest weight loss can significantly improve high blood pressure. Regular exercise (with a physician’s approval) is important in helping you lose weight and maintain weight loss. This helps keep blood pressure down.

Limit consumption of alcohol. In many people, drinking excessive alcohol raises blood pressure. It is recommended that people with high blood pressure limit alcohol consumption to no more than one ounce per day. That’s about the amount in two ounces of 100-proof whiskey, one eight-ounce glass of wine, or two 12-ounce cans of beer.

Eat adequate amounts of potassium-rich foods. Potassium, another mineral essential to good health, works in concert with sodium to regulate blood pressure. Studies have shown that people who consume more potassium have lower blood pressures than those who consume less. Rich sources of potassium include many fruits, such as cantaloupe, bananas, watermelon, oranges and orange juice, as well as potatoes, spinach, and zucchini. (Important note: if taking medication for high blood pressure, such as diuretics, consult a doctor before using salt substitutes that contain high amounts of potassium.

Sample Menu
Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • orange juice – 1/2 cup
  • oatmeal – 1 cup
  • skim milk -1 cup
  • whole-wheat toast – 2 slices
  • low sodium margarine – 1 tsp
  • sugar – 1 tsp
  • banana – 1 med
  • spaghetti with low sodium marinara sauce – 1 1/2 cups
  • green salad – 1 cup
  • low sodium dressing – 2 Tbsp
  • Italian bread – 1 slice
  • low sodium margarine – 1 tsp
  • apple – 1 med
  • grape juice – 1 cup
  • grilled chicken breast- 3 oz
  • grilled zucchini – 1/2 cup
  • pasta salad made with low sodium dressing 1/2 cup
  • whole wheat roll – 1
  • low sodium margarine – 1 tsp
  • peach cobbler – 1/2 cup
  • skim milk – 1/2 cup
  • cranberry juice – 1/2 cup
This Sample Diet Provides the Following
Calories 1,914 Fat Fat 32 gm
Protein 76 gm Sodium 1,027 mg
Carbohydrates 341 gm Potassium 3,755 mg
Food Groups
Group Recommend Avoid
Meat & Meat Substitutes fresh or frozen lean meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, unsalted lean pork, water-packed tuna, canned salmon without added salt, unsalted nuts and seeds, low-sodium peanut butter, dried peas, beans, lentils cured meats, processed meats, cold cuts, smoked meats, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, Canadian bacon
Miscellaneous low-sodium broth, pepper, spices, vinegar, lemon juice, low-sodium ketchup, low-sodium mustard, low-sodium pickles, hot pepper sauce, garlic and onion powders, low-sodium salsa garlic salt, onion salt, regular ketchup, mustard, and pickles


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