We have all been told to reduce our sodium intake to help control or prevent high blood pressure or hypertension. As most of you know, high blood pressure is a common disorder which can greatly increase your risk of heart attack, kidney disease, blindness, and stroke.
There is no doubt that excess sodium in our diet can increase blood pressure in people who are sensitive to sodium. Do you know why? Well, increasing the concentration of sodium in the blood has a tendency to keep more water inside your tissues which increases the blood volume. When your blood volume increases, so does the pressure exerted upon the artery wall every time your heart beats. In most people, the amount of excess sodium is removed by the kidneys, but sometimes this process does not function as well and high blood pressure results.
So is sodium from the foods you eat the only culprit responsible for your high blood pressure? In my opinion, yes, it’s important to be mindful of the sodium content of frozen, prepared, take out and processed foods because the majority of sodium we eat is added into the food before we heat it up or buy it. It may also be wise to reduce the intake of these foods and increase the intake of high-potassium foods like fruits and vegetables which can increase the potassium to sodium ratio in your body.
But there are other foods you need to be aware of that can help lower blood pressure too. Refined carbohydrates like breads, crackers, bagels, and pasta products that are made from white flour can raise blood sugar and insulin levels and this process leads to high blood pressure.
Consuming foods high in simple sugars like cereals, candy, baked goods, fruit drinks, desserts, and soda can also have the same effects upon your body because these foods rapidly increase blood sugar. When this occurs, there is a characteristic and prolonged insulin spike which can also influence the degree of inflammation inside your body. The chemicals that signal the inflammation cascade also can increase blood pressure and keep it elevated if insulin resistance develops.
Some other foods to be mindful of are saturated fat and trans fat. The consumption of too much saturated fat found in foods like butter, cream, red meat, ground pork, beef, and lard often leads to the production of a type of fatty acid called arachidonic acid. This fat causes the levels of inflammation inside your body to increase which can elevate blood pressure.
Trans fats typically found in fried foods, frozen entrées and snack foods can also greatly negatively affect our artery linings from the inside, leading to increases in blood pressure. Trans fats are particularly toxic to the inner linings of our arteries and these altered fatty molecules can increase blood pressure by preventing the secretion of an enzyme called nitric oxide which keeps our arteries relaxed and blood pressure under control.
My advice to also be mindful of the other foods you regularly consume and not just the amount of salt that you eat from day to day.