Foods To Avoid If You Have Hypertension 

May 31, 2021

Foods To Avoid If You Have Hypertension 

Hypertension or high blood pressure is a condition that can lead to other diseases such as kidney disease, heart attack, heart disease, stroke, or brain problems. [1

108 million adults living in the United States are diagnosed with hypertension, but only 24% of them have their blood pressure well-managed! [2] This number is concerning because hypertension can lead to heart disease and stroke, which are the leading causes of death in the United States. [2

Hypertension develops gradually. It can occur due to unhealthy lifestyle choices such as eating massive amounts of high-salt and high-calorie meals or not getting enough physical exercise. [1

If you intend to keep your blood pressure within optimal ranges, diet modification is crucial. [3] Hence, you need to have knowledge regarding which foods to avoid. A rule of thumb is to reduce the intake of foods high in sodium and salt. 

Let’s look at eight foods you should avoid to preserve your health and your heart!

Salami and other deli meats

Manufacturers process deli meats or lunch meats to make them last longer. Often, this involves using generous amounts of salt to cure and season the meat. Salt is a mineral that is high in sodium. 

In small amounts, sodium is beneficial for the body to ensure the balance of fluids in the body is maintained and proper functioning of nerve and muscle cells. With overconsumption, sodium will bring more harm and good and increase your blood pressure! [4

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), adults should at the very most take 2300mg of sodium a day, which is equivalent to roughly a teaspoon of salt! Ideally, you should not take more than 1500mg each day. [5

This is a challenging limit to follow, and on average, Americans consume about 3400mg of sodium daily! [4] To put this into perspective, an average hot dog will contain more than 500mg of sodium. [6] You may buy low-sodium options for a healthier choice if you love deli meats, but some brands are still packed with sodium. Always look at the packaging labels before purchase to check the sodium content. 

On these packages, you may notice different terms. ‘Reduced sodium’ refers to at least 25% less sodium than the normal level. ‘Low sodium’ usually refers to less than 140mg per serving, while ‘sodium-free' signifies a sodium content of 5mg or less. [5

Deli meats are often used to make sandwiches. Bread, cheese, and pickles are common sandwich ingredients that are also considered high in sodium! 

To make yourself a healthier sandwich, you can use chicken breast instead of processed deli meats and avocado to act as condiments. You may also season with herbs and spices instead of purely salt. Better still, skip the meat and make yourself a veggie sandwich seasoned with olive oil and vinegar instead of mayonnaise. 

Canned soups and foods

When you’re pressed for time, canned foods and soups are options that are quick and convenient. Unfortunately, they are rich in sodium, meaning they can increase your blood pressure! Packet soups are no better. This study found the packaged soup category had the highest sodium density. [7

One can of chicken vegetable soup contains over 2000mg of sodium, which has already surpassed the ideal recommended daily intake. [8

Once again, you may read the label for the sodium and nutrient content and choose low-sodium options. Better still, add in some vegetables, such as spinach or broccoli. 

Spinach is packed with nutrients and antioxidants that have impressive antihypertensive effects, while broccoli can improve the functioning of your blood vessels and reduce blood pressure. [9,10 ]. You can stir-fry the broccoli with some olive oil before adding it to your soup. 

Whenever possible, steer clear of other canned foods like canned tomatoes or canned spaghetti sauce as well. Using fresh tomatoes to prepare homemade spaghetti sauce may be a huge hassle, but when it comes to your heart’s health, it’s worth the sweat and tears! Choosing canned tomatoes with no added salt is also a convenient and healthier option. 


Pizza is one of the greatest food inventions of all time! However, it can easily tip you over your sodium limit and make it more challenging to control your blood pressure. The reason is apparent. Pizzas contain many high-sodium ingredients, ranging from cheese, processed meat, canned tomatoes to the sauce and seasonings. [11,12]

There are several practical tips you can use the next time you find yourself in a pizza restaurant. The crust does make a difference. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that one slice of thick crust pizza with no cheese could contain over 200mg more sodium than one slice of thin-crust pizza with no cheese. [13,14

Hence, opt for thin-crust pizza instead of the deep pan or cheese-stuffed pizza crusts the next time. Of course, this also depends on how many slices you take. People may eat more pieces when the pizza is thin-crust. 

Other than that, processed meats like beef pepperoni and bacon are undeniably tempting, but your best bet is avoiding those as they are rich in sodium and saturated fats! Unsurprisingly, the AHA recommends reducing the intake of processed red meats such as ham, salami, sausages, hot dogs, and bacon. [15] So, it’s best to keep them off your pizza. 

Opt for veggie pizzas that are topped with spinach or mushrooms instead, but chicken breast is a healthier choice if you desire some meat on your pizza. 

Lastly, try to limit the number of slices you take!

Sugary foods and drinks 

Sugar in moderate amounts won’t be detrimental to your health, but excessive sugar consumption can lead to many health problems, such as obesity and diabetes. According to studies, sugar may have both a direct and indirect effect (obesity increases blood pressure) on your blood pressure. [16,17]

Wondering how much sugar is too much? Men should not consume more than 36 grams (9 teaspoons) of sugar per day, while women should avoid surpassing 25 grams (6 teaspoons) of sugar daily. To put that into perspective, an average can of soda contains approximately eight teaspoons of sugar. With just a few gulps, one drink can cost you your entire day’s allocation! [18

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t try cutting out sugar entirely from your diet at once. If you’re an avid sugar lover, lowering your daily consumption gradually is the best way to go! 

If you’ve always drizzled lots of maple syrup or honey on your pancakes, you could use bananas or strawberries instead for that kick of fruity sweetness. When grocery shopping, observe labels and compare the percentage of added sugars before purchasing products. [19

Other than that, diet soda drinks may not taste as good as regular ones, but they help reduce your sugar intake. Of course, plain water is the best substitute for sweet drinks, and you can stir in lemon or mint leaves for a refreshing drink. [19

Another good tip is to cut down the sugar by half or a third whenever you’re baking your favorite chocolate cake or cookies. Recipes often call for unhealthy and excessive amounts of sugars to cater to the tastebuds of sweet-tooths. Usually, you won’t notice any difference in taste after removing a third of the sugar from the recipe. [19]

Cottage and processed cheese

Recall the last time you walked down the dairy aisle in your supermarket. You probably saw hundreds of different brands and types of cheese to choose from. It can get daunting to pick the healthiest one for yourself, but there are a few practical tips to keep in mind. 

Generally, processed American cheese, cheese spreads and sauces, parmesan cheese, and cottage cheese are high in sodium and calories. On the other hand, ricotta cheese, cream cheese, and mozzarella usually contain less sodium and fats. [20,21,22

Check the labels to find out the sodium and fat content. Besides that, try to limit your serving to an ounce or two of cheese, depending on the type. Two and a half tablespoons of grated cheddar are roughly an ounce of cheese, so don’t be too generous with sprinkling cheese on your spaghetti the next time. [20] Using a spoon instead of your hands when topping your spaghetti will help you estimate the amount of cheese you’re using. 

Additionally, you may use cheese with solid, intense flavors, so you only need a small amount for that cheesy goodness. Mixing both high and low-sodium cheese is a reasonable option if your favorite is sadly a high-sodium one. [22

Frozen dinners

Do you lead a hectic life? If so, frozen foods are the holy grail when it comes to taste and convenience. However, this could affect your health in the long run, especially your cardiovascular health.

Foods such as pre-made frozen pizzas can pack a punch! One 12-inch frozen pepperoni pizza can reach over 3000mg of sodium in content and will likely cause your sodium intake to surge well over the recommended daily limit. [23] That can be detrimental to your health and your heart!

A crucial tip is to check the label on the packaging before choosing the product. Based on recommendations by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, heart-healthy frozen meals should contain less than 300mg of sodium per serving. Screen through the ingredients list and generally avoid monosodium glutamate (MSG), broth, brine, corned, pickled, and smoked ingredients. [24

Select low-sodium frozen meals whenever possible, but be wary! Terms such as ‘reduced sodium’ or ‘25% less sodium’ on labels may be misleading. Some of those foods may still contain massive amounts of sodium and fats! To be safe, check the milligrams of sodium per serving instead of just the percentage daily value on the nutrition labels. 


Scientists and researchers have studied the effects of alcohol on blood pressure extensively. The results of these studies revealed that alcohol could cause your blood pressure to rise via several proposed mechanisms. [25,26]

That’s not all. Alcohol may also be a risk factor for obesity and weight gain, leading to increased blood pressure in the long run. [27

If your doctor has prescribed you some antihypertensive medications to lower your blood pressure, there is a possibility for interactions between the drug and alcohol. These interactions could potentially reduce the efficacy of the drug or lead to other dangerous outcomes. [28

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines advised that men should not take more than two drinks per day. For women, one drink per day is the limit. One drink is equivalent to around 12 ounces of beer containing 5% alcohol, typically one can of beer. One drink is also approximately 4-5 ounces of wine, depending on the alcohol percentage. [29,30


Most of us do not enjoy bland food, so condiments have become a staple component of some of our diets. For starters, soy sauce and salad dressing are packed with sodium! [31] Because we use condiments often to season and add flavor to our food, we must pick variants less likely to be destructive to our heart’s health.

On your next grocery shopping trip, look out for low-sodium, salt-free, and no-added-sugar ketchup. [31

Another common condiment is hot sauce which is synthesized from ingredients such as chili peppers high in sodium! To add that spicy kick to your food, try a dash of red pepper flakes, or cayenne pepper instead. [31

The common perception is that salad is healthy. That’s correct, but only if you use more nutritious ingredients to season your salad. Some salad dressings contain massive amounts of sodium, and occasionally, ‘light’ or ‘fat-free’ versions may even have more sodium than the original variants! [31] You may season your salad with olive oil and vinegar instead. 

Finally, we have soy sauce, a popular ingredient in stir-fried foods. One tablespoon contains over half of the ideal daily sodium limit recommended by AHA! The ideal limit is 1500mg per day. You may opt for low-sodium soy sauce versions or try some online recipes that teach you how to mimic the mouth-watering flavor of soy sauce but with healthier ingredients. [31

Other Asian sauces like oyster sauce, teriyaki sauce, and fish sauce all contain sky-high amounts of sodium, too. Try using less of these in your cooking, or opt for lower-sodium versions. 


If you’re looking to maintain the proper functioning of your heart, keeping your blood pressure in check is undeniably vital! Your diet plays a key role in this. However, before making any drastic changes to your diet, always consult a healthcare professional. This article acts as a general guide and should not overwrite any information given by your own healthcare provider. 

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