Week 3:

Eating for Lower Blood Pressure Part Two

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 affects blood pressure, what 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.

What’s the deal with sodium and 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 wants to dilute down the sodium. This causes you to retain water, increasing 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. Being mindful of sodium intake, especially by limiting the processed foods discussed below, can reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure. 

Lowering sodium

Reducing the amount of sodium you eat means more than just setting down the salt shaker at the dinner table. More than 70% of the sodium you eat most likely 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: 

  • Canned foods (especially soups)
  • Deli meats or cured meats
  • Fresh or frozen chicken that has been injected with a brine or salt solution
  • Bread and other baked goods
  • Frozen meals
  • Boxed, flavored rice or pasta
  • Some cheeses (feta, string cheese, certain cheddars or colby)
  • Pizza


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. 

If you are tracking your meals in your Brook app, you can see how much sodium you are eating each day. Aim to keep that amount under 2,300 mg each day.

Increasing potassium*

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:


  • Leafy greens (especially beet greens, Swiss chard, spinach, or bok choy)
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Winter squash
  • Summer squash
  • Beans (black, pinto, cannellini, etc)


  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Avocados
  • Oranges
  • Raisins
  • Apricots


If you’re tracking sodium, you can track potassium too. Aim for around 4,700 mg of potassium each day. 

*Note: high potassium consumption is not appropriate for everyone, especially those with kidney disease or on certain medications. Chat with your doctor before ramping up your potassium foods.

Other foods to help lower blood pressure

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 relaxed state, blood pressure will lower. Increasing your regular intake of veggies that help produce nitric oxide in the body is a helpful strategy for keeping blood pressure in a healthy range. 

Foods that help support nitric oxide production:

  • Beets
  • Celery
  • Lettuce
  • Dark leafy greens (especially arugula, kale, and spinach)
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Parsley
  • Dark chocolate

Alcohol and blood pressure

When thinking about 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.

That’s everything for this week!

Time to pick your goal for logging healthy habits in the Brook app:

Log food and limit sodium to 2300 mg a day
Log 3 meals that follow the Brook Healthy Plate this week
Log a high potassium veggie every day this week

Open the app and tell Brook’s Experts what goal you’ve chosen!

Chat soon!
A picture of Health Coach Emily smiling for the camera
Reviewed by Emily Matson, MS, RDN​

on August 13, 2020. Emily is a Registered Dietitian with her Master's degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA, and is one of our Brook Experts.