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High Blood Pressure Diet - Best and Worst Foods for High Blood Pressure

HealthcareOnTime Team 2024-03-15 2024-03-16 3 Min Read
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  • High Blood Pressure Diet - Best and Worst Foods for High Blood Pressure

    Medically termed as hypertension, constant high blood pressure levels for a long duration have been a threat to human life since 1990. It has caused many deaths worldwide ever since.1   

    It's commonly believed that the number one food that causes high blood pressure when consumed in excess amounts is sodium 2, which you can find in edibles and drinks and in countless food items.

    Doctors often suggest prescription medicines like ACE inhibitors (drugs that stop the action of angiotensin-converting enzymes) to bring down high blood pressure levels.3 In addition to medication, it's crucial to avoid certain foods to control hypertension. The main offenders include highly processed foods rich in salt and sugar, excessive alcohol, and red meat.4 

    Furthermore, making certain lifestyle changes, such as altering dietary habits, can help manage blood pressure.

    But there's a lot of depth in how these foods affect us and how eating them raises blood pressure. Therefore, the optimal way to achieve suitable blood pressure levels is to understand which foods to avoid to prevent high blood pressure.

    Impact of Food on Blood Pressure

    The food you eat can contain different types of nutrients ranging from sodium to calcium to potassium to magnesium and several others that affect your body differently. More importantly, these compounds can potentially increase or decrease your BP. While some nutrients may bring about only a small change, others might have a drastic positive or negative effect on your BP levels.So, overall, what you eat has a direct and significant impact on your blood pressure.

    Foods To Avoid With High Blood Pressure 

    Let's start with the most important question: what kind of high blood pressure foods to avoid

    Nutrients that cause a major hike in BP include sodium, sugar, and saturated fats.

    • Sodium: Consuming sodium in the form of salt increases your body's ability to retain fluids. As a result, the blood pressure in your vessels rises along with a hike in your blood volume. If this continues to happen for a longer duration, your chances of suffering from a heart stroke or developing a heart disease increase. 

    So, make sure that salt is written in bold letters on your list of "High-BP foods to avoid," as it is considered to be the number one food that causes high blood pressure.

    • Sugar and Saturated Fats: Food items containing high amounts of processed sugar and saturated fats are also dangerous for BP patients 5. That's because sugar and saturated fats can increase inflammation and cause arteries to stiffen, which restricts blood flow and elevates pressure.6

    Most of the snacks we eat come in a list of  foods that raise blood pressure quickly since they contain processed sugar and saturated fats.

    If you're a drinker, you must have heard that alcohol can also cause high blood pressure. But every drinker is curious to know what's the worst of alcohol for high blood pressure. Well, sadly, all of them! 7 Therefore, if you want to maintain optimal blood pressure, make sure you avoid these as much as possible.

    On the other hand, nutrients that help in reducing your blood pressure include: 

    • Potassium: Studies have shown that potassium can cancel out the effect of high sodium intake. Incorporating potassium at least in the quantity of 90mmol per day is a great way to control your blood pressure and keep it at the optimum level.7
    • Magnesium: Magnesium is one of the healthiest nutrients for people suffering from high blood pressure because: 
    • It helps to increase and enhance the action of antihypertensive drugs.
    • Many studies have proven that regular intake of magnesium can help in the management of high blood pressure.
    • Good magnesium levels in your blood prevent the onset of life-threatening conditions like cardiac arrhythmias, ischemic stroke, and even coronary heart disease. 8

    • Calcium

    • Taking more calcium in your diet is a great way to manage hypertension because of the following reasons:
    • Calcium controls the way your muscles (those that are present in your blood vessels) contract and relax while pumping blood. 
    • An increased quantity of calcium in your blood leads to the inhibition of renin.9 
    • Renin is an enzyme that can indirectly increase your BP.10 

    Therefore, your high blood pressure diet should include foods rich in calcium, magnesium, and potassium. On the other hand, foods containing high quantities of sodium, sugar, and saturated fats are the foods that you must avoid with high blood pressure. 

    DASH Diet 

    Along with answering what foods cause high blood pressure, it is also equally important to address which foods are good for people suffering from high blood pressure. The DASH, i.e., Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is a comprehensive solution that covers both of these aspects, which is often a diet doctors prescribe to people with severe hypertension. 

    This type of diet focuses on increasing the intake of—

    • Fruits
    • Vegetables 
    • Dairy foods containing lesser amounts of fat
    • Whole-grain foods
    • Fish
    • Poultry
    • Nuts

    Foods to avoid with high blood pressure when you are following a DASH diet include food items (which we discussed above) that are rich in: 

    • Sodium
    • Cholesterol
    • Saturated Fats 
    • Trans Fats

    Other high-blood-pressure foods to avoid during the DASH diet are: 

    • Sweets
    • Sugary Drinks
    • Red Meats 

    Research studies have proven that people who strictly followed a DASH diet experienced lower blood pressure levels only within 2 weeks of starting it 11 .

    Apart from the DASH diet, you can also opt for the Mediterranean diet. It is a similar concept that aims to decrease your blood pressure levels 12

    The Mediterranean diet involves the consumption of certain foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, and olive oil. On the other hand, it suggests the avoidance of foods like—

    • Dairy products that have more fats
    • Poultry
    • Red meat 13

    Regardless of what type of diet you follow, every diet suggests some common foods to avoid with high blood pressure. Importantly, your dedication and adherence to the essential instructions for any diet plan ultimately decide how significantly you can benefit from it. 

    Read More: 9 Morning Drinks That Bring Down Blood Pressure Naturally

    Worst Foods for High Blood Pressure

    We can sometimes struggle to resist tempting food cravings. But when you have a disease as serious as hypertension, it is essential to avoid these cravings by eliminating certain food items from your diet. That is why, beyond nutrients, taking a step back and understanding the exact foods to avoid with high blood pressure plays a crucial role in managing your long-term health. 

    Henceforth, here is a list of the worst foods for high blood pressure.

    Salty Foods 

    As already discussed before, salty foods are high in sodium. Since sodium causes a direct elevation in blood pressure, you must avoid the foods that contain it to manage hypertension. 

    Fast food and any kind of food that is highly processed usually contains high sodium levels. That is why any "salty food" is the number one food that causes high blood pressure. 

    The American Heart Association states that the major salty foods to avoid with high blood pressure include—

    • Cured Meats
    • Burgers
    • Sandwiches
    • Cold Meat Cuts
    • Canned Soup
    • Tacos 
    • Burritos
    • Pizza

    Sometimes, even those foods that are labelled to be "healthy" may not be good for patients with high blood pressure. Packaged vegetable soup is a classic example.14

    Other salty high-blood-pressure foods to avoid are—

    • Frozen foods 15
    • Chips 
    • Crackers
    • Popcorn 
    • Kimchi
    • Sauerkraut
    • Pickled foods 
    • Brined foods 
    • Tomato soup 
    • Canned tomato juice
    • Tomato sauces 
    • Ketchup
    • Soy sauce
    • Salad dressings 

    Sugary Drinks 

    You might not realise it, but certain "light" sugary drinks can prove to be hazardous to your health, especially when you're suffering from the problem of high blood pressure. That is why it is important to identify and eliminate these from your diet as soon as possible for better heart health. 

    Although sugary drinks may not directly fall under the category of foods to avoid with high blood pressure, since they often contain high sugar content and caffeine, they can negatively impact your BP 16

    So, here is a list of sugary drinks and sweet liquid foods to avoid with high blood pressure—

    • Sodas and soft drinks 
    • Sweetened beverages like iced tea 17 
    • Energy drinks 
    • Fruit juices 
    • Caffeinated beverages like coffee and black tea 18 

    Read More:  Types of Tea You Should Drink to Lower Blood Pressure

    Fatty Foods 

    Any item that contains high-fat content, especially saturated fats, is another high-BP food to avoid for hypertension patients. 

    Examples of food items that contain saturated fats in a high quantity include—

    Dairy Products like 19:

    • Egg yolks
    • Hard cheeses
    • Whole milk
    • Cream
    • Ice cream
    • Butter 
    • Yoghurt 
    • Creme fraiche 

    Fatty Meats like 20

    • Red meat
    • Processed meat
    • Cold cuts
    • Bacon
    • Pepperoni slices
    • Deli turkey    
    • Kebabs 
    • Chicken skin 

    Desserts like 19

    • Chocolate
    • Toffee
    • Cakes
    • Puddings
    • Cookies
    • Pastries
    • Pies 

    Apart from these, coconut oil, palm oil, lard, ghee, and margarine 20 are some ingredients that come with high levels of saturated fat. 

    Analyzing your diet and finding out if these are present in your daily food is essential because these are the foods that raise blood pressure quickly, and you might experience the consequences sooner than you would like.

    Excess Alcohol

    Are you concerned about which is the worst alcohol for high blood pressure? Well, the answer could be a bit underwhelming.

    While there is no specific answer to which is the worst alcohol for high blood pressure, longtime research has shown that people who drink heavily on a regular basis are at a higher risk of developing hypertension. This is especially true for people who consume high amounts of beer or wine. 23 

    Therefore, for men, it is recommended not to have more than 2 drinks each day. Similarly, for women, having more than 1 drink every day could become a cause of high blood pressure.24


    Licorice contains a substance called glycyrrhizin. Glycyrrhizin's mechanism of action results in the following—

    • It accelerates fluid retention by reabsorbing water and sodium from the urine.
    • It brings down the potassium levels.

    Since excess sodium is bad and healthy levels of potassium are good for hypertension patients, licorice can have a negative impact on the health of high BP patients 25. Therefore, licorice is a food that you should not eat with high blood pressure.

    Best Foods for Healthy Blood Pressure

    Above, we have given a detailed description of the foods to avoid with high blood pressure. But when there is so much to avoid, there must be something that's healthy to accept. 

    Similar to the list of high blood pressure foods to avoid, there is a long list of foods that are not only tasty but also healthy for patients with high blood pressure. 

    The best part is that such foods not only help lower your blood pressure but also potentially eliminate other serious complications over time. 

    So, here is a quick list of the best foods for healthy blood pressure—

    Fresh Fruits 

    • Citrus fruits like grapefruit, oranges, and lemons 26
    • Berries like blueberries, raspberries, chokeberries, strawberries, grapes and cranberries 
    • Kiwifruit 
    • Bananas 
    • Watermelon 27
    • Pomegranates 


    • Leafy green vegetables like cabbage, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach, and Swiss chard, since they are rich in nitrates
    • Broccoli 
    • Carrots 
    • Tomatoes 
    • Brocolli 
    • Potatoes 

    Lean Meats

    As there are so many types of meats, it's important to know what meats are good for high blood pressure. And more importantly, does red meat cause high blood pressure?

    Unfortunately, red meat contains lots of saturated fat and trans fat, which is not good for BP patients. So, that needs to go out of your list.28 

    However, lean meats fall into the category of one of the best foods to eat for high blood pressure. Any meat qualifying as lean must contain less than 10 grams of total fat, no more than 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and under 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 100 grams (about a 3.5-ounce serving). Examples include 29:

    • Beef sirloin
    • Pork tenderloin
    • Chicken breast (skinless)
    • Lean ground turkey (93%) 

    Nuts and Seeds

    Nuts are beneficial for people suffering from high blood pressure primarily due to their content of "good fats" and omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. They also contain fibre, which helps reduce cholesterol and manage appetite, and L-arginine, which may improve blood vessel health and lower blood pressure.30

    • Chia seed
    • Almonds
    • Flaxseed
    • Pistachios
    • Walnuts
    • Pumpkin seeds 

    Whole Grains 

    Whole grains contain potassium, which helps lower blood pressure. Along with that, they also reduce damage to blood vessels. Here are some of the whole grains that help in reducing blood pressure 31:

    • Corn
    • Whole Grain Bread
    • Whole Oats
    • Quinoa
    • Amaranth
    • Brown Rice 
    • Whole Wheat Pasta 

    Therefore, for people wondering if just eating raises blood pressure, the answer is yes and no. What you eat, in how much quantity, and how frequently will ultimately decide whether it causes an increase or decrease in blood pressure. 

    While high sodium content is not good for hypertension patients, it might be helpful for people suffering from hypotension (a condition that causes low blood pressure levels).

    Apart from Diet, What Other Habits Are Elevating Your Blood Pressure?

    Apart from the foods to avoid high blood pressure, there are certain lifestyle habits that you must minimize to manage your blood pressure. 

    These include—

    • Poor sleeping patterns that result in insufficient sleep
    • High intake of alcohol and caffeine 
    • Less physical activity
    • Eating unhealthy foods
    • Smoking and taking illegal drugs like cocaine 32

    All in all, adopting healthy eating habits and consuming a good quantity of fresh fruits, vegetables, and seeds, along with regular physical exercise and management of stress levels, are some ways in which you can maintain your high blood pressure. Moreover, it is a good idea to go for complete health checkup packages regularly to identify and eliminate any risk at the right time.


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