Blood pressure is, quite literally, on the rise. In the U.S., 67 million adults have high blood pressure—that’s one in three people. Thirty percent of the rest of adults in the U.S. have pre-hypertension, a condition that leads up to high blood pressure, if diet and lifestyle habits are not changed. Eating healthy can be a challenge; even foods that seem like they’re good for you (and are marketed as such) may actually increase blood pressure.
1. Canned tomato products and tomato juice
Fresh tomatoes are a delicious and healthy source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that fights cancer causing free radicals. Canned tomato sauce and tomato juice, unfortunately, are less healthy; to prolong their shelf life, these products are pumped full of sodium. A cup of tomato juice contains 680 milligrams of sodium, and a single serving of spaghetti with meat sauce has over 1,300 milligrams of sodium. Sodium leads to blood sugar spikes, which raise blood pressure levels.
Coffee has some great health benefits; it wakes up a sluggish mind, contains antioxidants (the darker the bean, the greater the load of antioxidants), and quiets a headache. But if you don’t regularly consume caffeine, an occasional cup of cup will cause a sharp increase in your blood pressure. It’s believed that caffeine stimulates the adrenal gland, causing this gland to secrete more adrenaline and cortisol, both of which increase blood pressure (they’re stress related hormones).
3. Canned soup
Whole generations of Americans were raised on canned soup; chicken noodle soup is a traditional comfort food. But canned soups contain a lot of sodium for preservation and flavor, and this high sodium content raises blood pressure. A cup of canned chicken noodle soup contains as much as 760 milligrams of sodium—and there’s also BPA to consider, the toxic plastic coating inside many canned goods which leeches into foods.
4. Fruit juices with excess sugar
Fruit juice seems like a good idea; you get all the benefits of the fruit, with none of the effort required (washing, peeling, chewing, etc). But many fruit juices are sweetened with excess sugar (which also works to prolong shelf life), making them an unhealthy choice. Too much sugar consumption is connected to diabetes, and also to high blood pressure—when the sugars break down, they cause a major spike in blood sugar levels, followed by a crash. Iced teas are often pumped with refined sugar syrups too.
5. Canned and pickled vegetables
While canned and picked vegetables are a good idea, in theory—it’s hard to eat fresh veggies every day, especially in winter—they are usually drenched in preservatives, sauces, or seasonings that contain added sodium. One cup of canned cream-style corn may contain 730 milligrams of sodium. Check the labels when buying anything in a can—choose “reduced sodium” or “no salt added” products. Better yet, buy fresh vegetables and can them yourself, like humans have done for centuries.
6. Whole Milk
A great source of calcium and vitamin D, whole milk actually contains more saturated fat than the body needs. In one cup of whole milk, there’s eight grams of fat, five of which are saturated. Saturated fats get stored in arterial walls as cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease. Choose 2% or skim milk, or better yet, soymilk.
7. Ramen noodles
Ramen noodles are like a modern day staff of life—people eat them all over the world, every day. Although Ramen noodles are inexpensive and filling food choice, they’re not very healthy. A single package of Ramen noodles holds fourteen grams of fat and 1580 mg of sodium—most of the sodium is in the seasoning packet.
Low in calories and technically a vegetable (a briny cucumber), pickles are not a great choice for blood pressure health. A medium pickle (about 5 inches long) can have around 570 mg of sodium, which is more than a third of the daily recommended limit (2300 mg). This limit is at the upper end of the spectrum; if you can get below 2000 mg a day, you’re doing really well.
9. Frozen potpies
These seem like a good choice for dinner—frozen potpies have protein, vegetables, and carbohydrates. But they also have a huge dose of sodium: 1300-1400 mg in one pie, plus thirty-five grams of fat. Frozen potpies often contain trans fats, which are among the least healthy artificial products in the grocery store.
This last item is not high on everyone’s list, but it’s a popular picnic food. Low in calories and made with several vegetables, sauerkraut seems like a healthier hotdog topping than ketchup (see #1 on this list); unfortunately, a half-cup of sauerkraut has more than 460 mg of sodium (but only about 13 calories).
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