Health Topics

Healthy Living

October 2010
The High-BP Diet
Dr. Suvro Banerjee
Most people eat too much salt, which makes high blood pressure worse. Low-sodium diets are often prescribed to help control high blood pressure. The most common source of sodium in the diet is table salt added to foods. A low- sodium diet limits the amount of sodium in your diet to no more than two grams (2000mg) a day. This is about half the amount of sodium in the average diet.

By not adding salt to foods, you can greatly reduce the amount of sodium in your diet. But sodium is also found in canned and prepared foods, even if they don't taste salty. Learn which foods to avoid, by reading labels to find out how much sodium is in them.

11 Foods to Avoid
  1. Ketchup, pickles, and olives
  2. Soy sauce, steak or barbecue sauce, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce
  3. Bouillon cubes – like chicken or vegetable stock
  4. Commercially prepared or cured meats or fish (bacon, processed meats, canned sardines, etc.)
  5. Canned vegetables, soups, and ot her packaged convenience foods
  6. Salty cheeses and buttermilk
  7. Salted nuts and peanut butter
  8. Self-rising flour and biscuit mixes
  9. Salted crackers, chips, popcorn
  10. Commercial salad dressings
  11. Instant cooked cereals
Many of these foods are now available in unsalted or low-sodium versions. Read all labels carefully. If your diet must be restricted to much lower amounts of sodium, talk to your doctor and a dietician for help in planning your meals. It is important to keep your meals nutritionally balanced and tasty. It can be hard to follow a restricted-salt diet if the food doesn't taste good, but there are many healthy ways to add taste without adding salt or fat.

Cut Out the Salt
Ask your doctor about salt substitutes - most contain potassium for flavour. You would want to factor this amount of potassium in your diet, if you are taking certain medications though.
  1. Substitute wines and vinegars (especially the flavoured vinegars) for salt to enhance flavours.
  2. If you must use canned products, use the low-sodium types (except for fruit). Rinse canned vegetables with tap water before cooking.
  3. Substitute unsalted, polyunsaturated margarine for regular margarine or butter.
  4. Eat low-sodium cheeses. Many are available now, some with herbs and spices that are very tasty, and many are also low-fat.
  5. Drink low-sodium juices.
  6. Add a pinch of sugar or a squeeze of lemon juice to bring out the flavour in fresh vegetables.
  7. Eat tuna and salmon packed in water instead of oil, and rinse first with running water.
  8. Use one or more of the following to season seafood: lemon, parsley, paprika, wine, garlic, onions, cilantro, ginger, bay leaf, fennel, dill, marjoram, or thyme.
  9. Use one or more of the following to season chicken: curry, turmeric, cumin, cilantro, tarragon, thyme, sage, onions, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, or orange, lemon, or lime juice with ginger.
  10. Use one or more of the following to season beef: dry mustard, thyme, bay leaf, pepper, red wine, mushrooms, onions, red or green pepper, parsley, curry, green chillies, or orange rind.
  11. Use one or more of the following to season noodles: basil, oregano, fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, green pepper, red pepper, yellow pepper, low-salt salad dressings, pine nuts, or low-salt mozzarella cheese.
  12. Try herbs and spices with seasonal foods. For example, use onions, garlic, parsley, lemon and lime juice and rind, dill weed, basil, thyme, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, paprika, vinegar, wine, etc. can enhance the flavour and aroma of foods. Mushrooms, celery, red pepper, yellow pepper, green pepper, and dried fruits also enhance specific dishes.
  13. Make unsalted or lightly salted soup stocks and keep them in the freezer to use as substitutes for canned broth and bouillon. Use these broths to enhance vegetables.
  14. Eat fresh foods (instead of canned or packaged foods) as much as possible. Also, plain frozen fruits and vegetables usually do not have added salt.

Dr Suvro Banerjee is Consultant – Interventional Cardiology at Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals, Kolkata.

  • The information on this site does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care provided by a physician.
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