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Blood Pressure and Diet

The Scoop on Sodium

Most Americans eat too much sodium. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, we consume as much as three teaspoonfuls of salt daily when we should consume less than 1 teaspoon.

Processed Foods

Furthermore, up to 75 percent of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods like:

  • Tomato sauce
  • Soups
  • Condiments
  • Canned goods
  • Prepared mixes

Studies have shown that reducing the amount of sodium in the diet can reduce high blood pressure, decreasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Sodium Compounds to Avoid

  • Salt (sodium chloride) - Used in cooking or at the table; used in canning and preserving.
  • Monosodium glutamate (also called MSG) - A seasoning used in home, restaurant and hotel cooking and in many packaged, canned and frozen foods.
  • Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) - Sometimes used to leaven breads and cakes; sometimes added to vegetables in cooking; used as alkalizer for indigestion.
  • Baking powder - Used to leaven quick breads and cakes.

Other Sodium Compounds to Avoid

  • Disodium phosphate - Found in some quick-cooking cereals and processed cheeses.
  • Sodium alginate - Used in many chocolate milks and ice creams to make a smooth mixture.
  • Sodium benzoate - Used as a preservative in many condiments such as relishes, sauces and salad dressings.
  • Sodium hydroxide - Used in food processing to soften and loosen skins of ripe olives and certain fruits and vegetables.
  • Sodium nitrite - Used in cured meats and sausages.
  • Sodium propionate - Used in pasteurized cheese and in some breads and cakes to inhibit growth of molds.
  • Sodium sulfite - Used to bleach certain fruits such as maraschino cherries and glazed or crystallized fruits that are to be artificially colored; also used as a preservative in some dried fruits such as prunes.

Control Blood Pressure Through Diet

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Increase potassium by eating eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. High potassium intake is associated with reduced blood pressure in people with or without high blood pressure.
  • Moderate the intake of alcohol. Clinical trials have shown a dose-dependent relationship between alcohol and blood pressure, especially in people who drink more than two drinks a day. Alcohol consumption should be limited to no more than two drinks a day in most men and no more than one drink a day in women and lighter-weight persons. One drink is 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.
  • Learn about the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. The diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products; includes whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts; and is reduced in fats, red meat, sweets and sugar-containing beverages.

Above content provided by The American Heart Association in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Contact Information

CardioVascular Institute at
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215

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