In today’s chaotic, fast-paced environment, it’s all too easy to allow bad habits to creep in that take a toll on your health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that one out of every three American adults currently has high blood pressure. Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood against the walls of your arteries. These vessels carry oxygenated blood away from your heart to other parts of your body. High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when the pressure stays high for long periods of time, rather than following a natural ebb and flow. While some foods have beneficial effects on your heart, others can send your blood pressure skyrocketing. Check out this list of foods and beverages to avoid.
Bacon, along with ham and other processed food items, is high in salt. The sodium in salt is essential for maintaining the proper balance of electrolytes in your body. However, too much salt throws off the proper balance of fluids in the body. When your kidneys are unable to excrete excess amounts of sodium in your urine, they begin to build up in your bloodstream. Excess sodium in your bloodstream attracts water, which increases your blood volume and requires your heart to work harder, which in turn increases your blood pressure. Avoid bacon as well as other processed foods such as hot dogs, ham, and sausage links.
Gooey, melty cheese tastes great, but it can wreak havoc on your blood pressure. Part of the problem stems from the high fat content of cheese. An even bigger problem is the sodium content. Avoid cheese that is high in sodium, such as feta, string cheese, and Roquefort. For tasty cheese with less salt, you can use mozzarella, cottage cheese, goat cheese, or Swiss cheese.
13. Deli Meat
Cold cuts and cured meats are also high in blood pressure-raising sodium. Deli meats are high in salt to add flavor and act as a preservative. Four ounces of deli turkey can contain a whopping 1000 mg of sodium. Since the maximum daily dietary recommendation is just 2300 mg of salt, this is enough to send your blood pressure soaring. Swap out deli turkey for slices of fresh turkey for great taste without all the sodium.
Every layer of that pizza pie contains sodium, from the pepperoni toppings to the melty cheese, the robust tomato sauce and the doughy crust. To enjoy the delicious taste of pizza without excess sodium, order thin crust pies with veggie toppings and no extra cheese. Control sodium levels by making your own pizza at home with fresh vegetables, homemade tomato sauce, and low-sodium cheese.
These juicy treats are soaked in a salty brine and can contain as much as 1200 mg of sodium per pickle. Dill pickles aren’t the only culprits. Sweet pickles are high in salt as well and have the added negative effects of added sugars. If you can’t give up the crispy bite of a pickle, then take steps to cut back on quantity. It is possible to enjoy the crunchy taste of pickles without overdoing it on salt. Use a couple of slices as a condiment on top of your sandwich instead of as a side dish alongside it. Better yet, search out recipes for homemade salt-free pickles using cucumbers and apple cider vinegar.
10. Canned Soup
The process of making canned soup involves heating the soup to high temperatures in order to kill any germs or bacteria. While this is good for preventing food contamination, it is not so good for the flavor of the soup. Extra salt is added to soups to replace flavor that is lost in the heating process. Additionally, flavoring the soups with salt is less expensive than using other herbs and spices. Canned soup is definitely convenient. However, nothing beats the flavor of homemade soups simmered with nutrient-packed veggies, lean meats, and fresh herbs.
9. Canned Tomato Products
Just like canned soups, canned tomato products are packed with added salt to prevent bacterial growth. Canned tomato juice, pasta sauces, and tomato sauces all contain added salt. The ketchup that tastes so delicious contains around 150 mg of sodium. When purchasing canned goods look for those labeled as low in sodium. Instead of ketchup, try making fresh salsa to use as a condiment.
8. Sugary Beverages
Salt isn’t the only culprit when it comes to high blood pressure. Refined sugars also can lead to hypertension. Sugary drinks such as sodas and fruit juices cause obesity, which is a primary risk factor for high blood pressure. Avoid drinking your calories and stick to a refreshing glass of ice water or herbal tea to keep your body hydrated.
7. Red Meat
The cholesterol and saturated fat contained in red meats contribute to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Red meats also contain the sodium that raises your blood pressure. To reduce the risks associated with consuming red meat, you don’t necessarily have to become a vegetarian. Limit yourself to red meat just once or twice each week. Prepare smaller portion sizes or use meat as the flavor in your dishes as opposed to making it your star ingredient.
Breads, baked goods, and other processed bakery items contain added salt and sugars that are detrimental to your health. Stick to healthy whole grains to avoid excess sodium and refined sugars. Additionally, you may not realize how much sodium is in the tortillas that you enjoy with your burritos or tacos. Replace white bread made with refined flour with nutrient-dense whole wheat bread. Enjoy a burrito bowl packed with veggies instead of your traditional flour tortilla.
5. French Fries
Fried in oil and served with generous helpings of salt, these tasty snacks can send your blood pressure through the roof. Pair your fries with a generous dose of ketchup and you’re really giving your heart a workout. For a hot, zesty substitute, try roasting your own sweet potato fries in the oven. Baste lightly with olive oil and sprinkle on garlic and spices for a tasty treat that more than satisfies your french fry cravings.
One look at those salt-encrusted pretzels and you know you’re not doing your heart any favors. A 1-ounce serving of pretzel twists contains around 300 mg of sodium, while a medium soft pretzel can contain as much as 1000 mg of sodium. If you love the crunch of pretzel sticks or can’t resist the warm chewiness of a soft pretzel, look for salt-free versions. Dress them up by dipping them in flavorful dips such as hummus or nut butter.
Drinking alcohol in excess of one to two drinks per day can lead to high blood pressure as well. Your blood pressure can be raised temporarily when your blood vessels dilate in reaction to the alcohol. This effect dissipates as the alcohol is metabolized by your body. However, in the long term, drinking can raise your blood pressure by elevating the amount of fat in your bloodstream. As your arteries become clogged with fat, they harden, leading to increased blood pressure and heart disease. The calories and sugars in alcoholic drinks also can contribute to obesity, another risk factor for hypertension.
2. Chinese Food
Chinese food, or rather, Chinese food the way it is prepared in the United States, is another food that is high in sodium. Six ounces of kung pao chicken can contain nearly 1000 mg of sodium. Add soy sauce to the dish and the sodium content is even higher. Avoid ordering takeout and prepare simple yet nutritious foods at home. The American Heart Association offers a delicious recipe for Broccoli Beef Stir Fry that is low in sodium but high in flavor.
1. Caffeinated Beverages
In your quest to prevent hypertension, you may be saddened to realize that not only are alcohol and sugary drinks bad for your blood pressure, but caffeine is as well. Caffeine can stimulate your adrenal gland to release excess cortisol and adrenaline. This can result in a spike in your blood pressure. If you need a cup of joe to get going in the morning, try weaning yourself off it by pouring a cup of half decaffeinated/half regular coffee. Try drinking caffeine-free herbal tea with an invigorating spritz of lemon for a piping hot midday pick-me-up instead of a cup of coffee.