Love Your Kidneys

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5 Foods to Avoid if You Have High Blood Pressure

One in three Americans is at risk for kidney disease due to high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. High blood pressure is a leading cause of kidney disease and increases your risk of developing a heart attack or stroke. There is no cure, but treatment and lifestyle changes, including taking high blood pressure medications, following a healthy diet and exercising regularly can lower blood pressure.

Even if you’re taking medications to lower blood pressure, it’s important to reduce your sodium intake by cutting down on high salt foods. The National Kidney Foundation recommends that those with high blood pressure or kidney disease limit daily sodium intake to 2,000 milligrams (mg). To put it in perspective, a teaspoon of salt contains about 2,400 mg of sodium, so 2,000 mg can add up quickly. Here are the National Kidney Foundation’s five foods to avoid if you have high blood pressure:

  1. Processed foods: These foods are usually high in salt and other additives that contain sodium. Processed foods include American cheese, frozen dinners, canned soups and fast foods. For example, two thin slices of regular American cheese contain 456mg sodium. Always read labels and compare various brands of the same food item until you find the one that has the lowest sodium content, since this will vary from brand to brand. Cook rice, pasta and hot cereals without salt. Cut back on instant or flavored rice, pasta, and cereal mixes, which usually have added salt.
  2. Table salt: Avoid table salt whenever possible. Just half a teaspoon of salt contains about 1,200 mg sodium and 60% of your daily allowance. Instead, use herbs, spices, and salt-free seasoning blends in cooking and at the table.
  3. Luncheon meats: Use fresh poultry, fish, and lean meat, rather than canned or processed deli meats. Typically a sodium-phosphate solution is injected into processed deli meats, making them high in sodium. Two slices of regular ham contain 604mg sodium, almost half the daily recommended limit.
  4. Salad dressings: Prepared salad dressings can be very high in sodium, depending on the dressing type and brand. Be sure to look for the “low-sodium” variety. Reduced-fat ranch dressing is a better choice containing approximately 336 mg sodium for two tablespoons.
  5. Soy sauce: One tablespoon of soy sauce has 1,005mg sodium. When shopping at the grocery store or eating at a restaurant, choose low-sodium or light soy sauce.


*Many thanks to Susan Lupackino, MHS, RD, LDN for her contributions to this article.

Susan Lupackino is a Registered Dietitian (RD) who is passionate about helping others live a healthier and active lifestyle. For more information about Susan visit her website,


References: USDA nutrient data base
Cheese spread, pasteurized process, American, 2 thin slices contain 456mg sodium
Ham, sliced, packaged (96% fat free, water added), 2 slice serving contains 604 mg sodium
Reduced fat ranch dressing, 2 tablespoon serving contains 336 mg sodium
Soy sauce (made from soy, tamari), 2 tablespoon contains 1,005 mg sodium