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October 17, 2018High blood pressure: What to eat and what to avoid

As of 2017 Blood Pressure UK estimate around 1.1 billion people worldwide suffer from hypertension, or high blood pressure.  That’s 1 in 7 people!

Although hypertension is often managed with medication, choosing the right diet can play a huge part in helping control this common condition.

Generally speaking, you should aim to eat a diet which is low in sodium (salt) and high in foods which contain potassium, calcium and magnesium.  Low fat proteins, whole grains and fresh fruit and vegetables should form the basis of most of your meals.

What to eat:

  • Lean proteins like skinless chicken and turkey
  • “Fatty” fishes, which are high in omega 3 and healthy fats including salmon, mackerel and tuna (although avoid tuna which is tinned in brine, which is very salty)
  • Porridge oats, which are high in fibre, but low in salt and fat
  • Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, romaine lettuce and Swiss chard. These types of greens are high in magnesium and potassium, which can help filter excess sodium out of your body through your urine
  • Nuts and seeds (unsalted) are a great source of magnesium and healthy fats. Several studies suggest magnesium promotes blood vessel dilation, helping lower blood pressure
  • Bananas and sweet potatoes, which are a great source of potassium
  • Olive oil, a healthy fat which contains inflammation-fighting compounds called polyphenols
  • Fresh beetroot, which is high in nitric oxide which helps open-up blood vessels
  • Try replacing animal, saturated and trans fats with healthier plant fats like avocados, unsalted nut-butters and seeds

What to avoid:

  • Salt is something you should try to avoid where possible, though unfortunately many of our favourite foods contain it. Salt raises the amount of sodium in your bloodstream, causing your kidneys to struggle to remove water from your body. Pressure caused by this extra retained fluid puts strain on your blood vessels, increasing your blood pressure. You should be especially vigilant of the sodium content of ready meals, frozen pizzas, processed and packaged foods
  • Pies, cakes, biscuits and pastry, which are often high in saturated fat and sodium
  • Deli meats, which are often cured using salt
  • Preserved and pickled vegetables, like gherkins
  • Tinned soups
  • Tinned or bottled tomato products, like pasta sauces, ketchup and chopped tomatoes also tend to be high in salt, sugar and preservatives. Try using fresh tomatoes instead where possible, or opt for low-sodium and low-sugar versions of your favourites
  • Sugar, and sugar-sweetened drinks
  • Saturated fats and trans fats found in butter, red meat, full fat dairy and poultry skin
  • Replace animal, saturated and trans fats with plant fats including avocado, nuts, seeds and olive oil
  • Try to limit your alcohol intake, as too much alcohol can raise blood pressure over time

Read more about the dangers of high blood pressure here.

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