Last week we went over how to build our meals so that our eating pattern supports healthy blood pressure. This week we’ll cover how sodium (a.k.a. ‘salt’) affects blood pressure, which foods are highest in sodium, and how to counteract the effects of sodium by boosting potassium in the diet. We’ll also see how some other foods can affect our blood pressure.
Sodium has some very important functions in the body – it keeps nerves and muscle cells working and keeps fluid balanced. But like many other things in life, too much is not a good thing. Sodium works alongside another mineral called potassium to keep the body working. If there is too much sodium and not enough potassium, the body tries to balance things out. This balancing act involves the body holding on to water to dilute the sodium in your blood and tissues. This causes you to retain water and increases your blood volume, which then increases your blood pressure.
If you have high blood pressure, lowering your intake of sodium and increasing your intake of potassium can help with bringing your blood pressure into a healthy range.
Reducing the amount of sodium you eat means more than just setting down the salt shaker at the dinner table. For most people, more than 70% of the sodium they eat comes from packaged, processed, or restaurant foods. Sodium makes foods taste better and it also makes it last longer (which is why it’s used as a preservative).
Here are some examples of some of the highest sodium foods:
When picking out a packaged food like cheese, crackers, or bread, aim for less than 100mg of sodium per serving. Making more meals yourself, rather than buying premade foods, is helpful for reducing your overall sodium intake.
Track your meals in your Brook app to see how much sodium you are eating each day. Aim to keep that amount under 2,300 mg each day.
Eating enough potassium throughout the day helps to counter sodium and the increase in blood pressure it can cause. Potassium is primarily found in fruits and veggies.
Check out these great sources to add to your meals:
If you’re tracking sodium, you can track potassium too. Aim for around 4,700 mg of potassium each day.
Nitric Oxide is a natural compound in your body that sends a signal to your arteries to expand and relax. When arteries are in this state, blood pressure will lower. Increasing your intake of veggies that help produce nitric oxide in the body is a helpful strategy for managing high blood pressure.
Foods that help support nitric oxide production:
When thinking about managing blood pressure, one important aspect to consider is how much and how frequently you drink alcohol. Moderate-heavy drinking (defined as 3 or more drinks a day for men, 2 or more drinks a day for women) can cause an increase in blood pressure, even if you only drink alcohol one day a week.
If you are a regular alcohol drinker, experiment with either a short term elimination or limiting your drinks to 2 a day for men or 1 a day for women. If you measure your blood pressure regularly, you may see a decrease in your readings.
on November 13th, 2020. Heather is a Certified Diabetes Educator, has been a Registered Dietitian for over 12 years, and is Brook's Health Director.