LifeCare Dietitian

1 May, 2023

Putting the 'Low' in Hypertension

Anyone gets confused when it comes to managing our diet for hypertension? Or in simpler terms, it would be high blood pressure. You’ll hear people saying to cut back on salt while some says it’s the sodium you should watch out for. So, which is it?

Salt = Hypertension?

To break it down, salt contains sodium, which is the component that has an effect on our blood pressure. Sodium is a mineral that attracts and holds onto water. When there is an excess of sodium in our bloodstream, this draws more water into our blood vessels, increasing the volume of our blood. With more blood flowing through our narrow blood vessels, this leads to an increase in blood pressure. Thus, controlling one’s sodium intake, by practising a low-sodium diet, is crucial in the management of high blood pressure.

In our diet, the common food sources that contribute to excessive sodium intake include condiments or sauces, processed food and also the food when we dine out. Here are some tips that’ll be helpful in preventing the overconsumption of sodium on a daily basis:

Hypertension and Diet, Tip Number 1:

Types of food that can cause hypertension

When cooking or eating out, choose dishes that utilise fresh and unsalted ingredients over processed food – salted, pickled, canned food items and ready-made sauces. Food that is flavoured with fresh herbs, spices, citrus fruits are a good way to make dishes tasty, while maintaining a low sodium content.

Hypertension and Diet, Tip Number 2:

Woman shopping for food options, healthy food

Look at the food item’s ingredient list when you are out shopping for groceries or grabbing a snack. Watch out for those with sodium or salt listed in their first 5 ingredients, this indicates that this product is high in sodium!

Hypertension and Diet, Tip Number 3:

Choose food items with labelling that depicts a lower sodium content compared to the original product, eg: Low Sodium, Reduced Sodium, Sodium Free.

Hypertension and Diet, Tip Number 4:

Other than avoiding additional seasonings or dipping sauces, it is advised to avoid dishes that contain a large amount of sauce(s) or gravy. If you do take a dish that contains sauce/gravy, request for them to be served separately, and use chopsticks or a fork to avoid picking up too much when you eat.

Hypertension and Diet, Tip Number 5:

Your overall sodium intake holds more importance than the type of salt used in your cooking. The difference in sodium content among different varieties of salt is miniscule, thus they provide the same effect on your blood pressure when used in the same amount.

*Pssst! Give yourself time to adapt to these new changes, as your taste buds will eventually adjust! 

There’s definitely more in terms of managing high blood pressure but integrating the above tips into your day-to-day eating habits and lifestyle is a great way to start practising a low-sodium diet that will be beneficial in helping to control your blood pressure. If you would like to learn more about the dietary and lifestyle management for hypertension, do seek a dietitian for a more personalised approach.