Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan, Physician Kong Teck Chuan and Physician Chu I Ta
7 High Blood Pressure Foods to Avoid
Published | 6 min read
Knowing which high blood pressure foods to avoid helps address hypertension. We list the foods that are notorious for causing dangerously high blood pressure.
Hypertension is defined as having persistently high blood pressure. This means any readings at or above 140 mmHg (systolic or upper reading) and/or 90 mmHg (diastolic or lower reading). This condition is dangerous because it puts great stress on your arteries and organs, damaging them over time. High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.
Read on to read the most common ingredients found in Malaysian dishes that can lead to hypertension and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) therapy that can help achieve healthy blood pressure levels.
High Blood Pressure Foods to Avoid
Certain foods may increase your blood pressure or keep it high. Limiting these seven foods can help manage hypertension.
1. Table salt
While the sodium in salt is important for your body’s functions, too much salt in your food isn’t good. The sodium in table salt affects fluid levels in your body and raises your blood pressure to unhealthy levels.
2. Pickled foods
The use of salt to pickle and preserve foods is a speciality in our part of the world. Belacan (shrimp paste), soy sauce, salted fish, and pickled fruits are among the most flavourful foods in our cuisine. However, consuming unhealthy amounts will add too much sodium to your system.
3. Canned foods
A microwaved bowl of soup from a can is a convenient meal. But like other processed foods, they contain a lot of sodium and preservatives. On top of the sodium, metabolising chemical preservatives in processed foods release compounds that raise blood pressure.
4. Processed meat
5. Foods high in bad fats
Foods high in bad fats raise the levels of LDL, a type of cholesterol that is more easily oxidized, in the bloodstream. These oxidised LDL molecules increase inflammation in artery walls. Trans fat, an industrially derived fat found in cooking ingredients such as margarine and shortening, is the worst.
Foods high in saturated fats like dairy, ghee, coconut, and palm oil are somewhere in between. Recent research found, for example, that attempting to completely remove saturated fats and replace them with highly processed carbohydrates led to worse outcomes in terms of heart disease.
Experts recommend taking most of your dietary fats from monounsaturated sources like virgin olive oil, which is prevalent in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. The phenols in virgin olive oil protect cholesterol from oxidation.
oods high in fructose
The rise in foods containing
Research using animal models has indeed shown that HFCS leads to salt overload, increasing blood pressure. Too much fructose increases constriction in blood vessels, increasing blood pressure. Fructose also inactivates vasodilators in blood vessels because of its potential effect to reduce nitric oxide production. Vasodilation helps encourage blood flow to parts of the body lacking in oxygen and other nutrients.
Moderate and occasional consumption of
So Many Don’ts. Any Dos?
Avoiding so many foods is not a pleasant way to live your life. Focus instead on adopting lifestyle habits that support good health, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise.
TCM approaches can be considered to combat high blood pressure.
Teas to lower blood pressure
- Chrysanthemum tea (ju hua cha, 菊花茶): Restores balance in the Liver, nourishes the eyes, clears Heat, and detoxes the body.
- Hawthorn tea (shan zha cha, 山楂茶): Has the effect of vasodilation while reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Lotus leaf tea (he ya cha, 荷叶茶): Clears Heat, cools blood, eases bleeding, and offers a vasodilation effect.
- Sophora japonica tea (huai hua cha, 槐花茶): Clears excessive Heat-Fire in the Liver and brightens the eyes.
- Tuber fleeceflower tea (shou wu cha, 首乌茶): Tonifies the Liver and Kidneys, reduces cholesterol and strengthens the tendons and bones.
Consult a certified TCM physician before consuming these teas or using any herbal ingredients. Your physician may also recommend additional ingredients to add to each tea for specific purposes.
“Diet aside, acupuncture, acupressure, and scraping techniques can help alleviate high blood pressure symptoms,” Physician Chu says. The acupressure points for hypertension include
Anti-hypertensive herbs and foods
A recent 2020 study of Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin (天麻钩藤饮), a typical TCM formula prescribed for hypertension, provides strong evidence of its efficacy. The study found that the decoction significantly reduced blood pressure in rats after eight weeks of administration. Findings also implied that the formula doesn’t have toxic side effects like many anti-hypertensive drugs on the market today.
According to TCM physician Kong Teck Chuan, foods like mushrooms, sea kelp, lettuce, spinach, mung beans, and
We recognise that completely limiting the seven high blood pressure foods above is not always possible in our gastronomically-inclined environment. When it comes to trans fats, preservatives, and high-fructose corn syrup, it is best to avoid these, but you still need sodium, cholesterol, and carbohydrates for your body to function.
The key is in the amounts. Prepare meals using less sodium and more fresh and non-processed ingredients. You can make better decisions and consider more holistic approaches to your lifestyle and healthcare.
This is an adaptation of the article “什么是高血压?“, which first appeared on the Health123 website.
- Journal of Health, Population, and Nutrition. 2021. The prevalence of hypertension among Malaysian adults and its associated risk factors: data from Malaysian Community Salt Study (MyCoSS). [online] Available at: <https://jhpn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s41043-021-00237-y> [Accessed 3 December 2022]
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- Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2020. Tianma Gouteng Decoction Exerts Cardiovascular Protection by Upregulating OPG and TRAIL in Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats. [online] Available at: <https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2020/3439191/> [Accessed 3 December 2022]
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