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Eat to Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure or hypertension is a common condition that affects one in four adult Singaporeans. Many factors are known to contribute to the elevated numbers. Age, obesity, family history, stress, high-salt diet, activity level and underlying diseases, are just a few.

When it comes to diet, there are simple steps that you can take to help lower your blood pressure. Check them out!

1. Eat less salt

Salt contains 40% sodium. Sodium is a mineral which is essential for the normal functioning of the body. However, if used in excess, sodium raises blood pressure especially in individuals who are sodium-sensitive. Scientific studies have provided strong evidence that lowering sodium intake is beneficial in reducing blood pressure.

Salt and sauces added in the preparation of food and at the table contribute to most of the sodium we consume daily. Canned and processed food also generally have a high content of sodium.

Here are ways to effectively reduce sodium intake:

  • Eating At Home
    • Cook with less salt, sauces, stock cubes and seasoning powders as many of these flavourings contain a lot of sodium.
    • Enhance the taste of food with natural herbs and spices like onion, ginger, garlic, chilli, parsley, spring onions, cinnamon and cloves.
    • Avoid use of salted and preserved food such as ikan bilis, salted fish, salted eggs, luncheon meat, sausages and ham.
  • Eating Out
    • Ask for your food to be prepared with less salt and sauces, where possible.
    • Ask for the sauces to be served on the side. Taste food first, try not to add more salt or sauces to food at the table, if the food is already palatable.
    • Avoid drinking up the soup stocks and sauces as they contain a lot of sodium.
  • Shopping
    • Buy fresh food as often as possible.
    • Use the Nutrition Information Panel on food labels and select food products with less sodium. Products with the Healthier Choice Symbol contain less sodium than similar products in the same category.

2. Include a well-balanced diet

There is substantial scientific evidence that a well-balanced diet supports a lower sodium intake to help prevent hypertension and even lower blood pressure for individuals with high blood pressure. It is likely that several components of the diet work together to bring down blood pressure levels.

So include wholegrain food such as brown rice, wholemeal bread, whole wheat biscuits and oats in your diet. Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables too. Fruit and vegetables are naturally rich in potassium, which counters the effect of sodium in the body and lowers blood pressure effectively. In addition, try incorporating low fat dairy products as well as beans, nuts and seeds in your diet.

Eat poultry without skin and lean meat instead of the higher fat options, and include fish regularly too. If you do cook at home, cook with less oil steam, grill, bake, roast, boil or pan fry with less oil to keep your dishes lower in fat.

Health Navigator

Fig. 1 - Health Eating Pyramid

When you eat out, do a visual check and pick cooked food items that do not look greasy. Avoid oily and deep fried food, dishes cooked with coconut milk and gravies that have oil floating on the surface.

3. Limit alcohol

There is evidence to show that consuming alcohol in large amounts and frequently increases blood pressure. So, if you do drink alcohol, then limit the amount you drink. Limit alcohol intake to no more than two standard drinks per day if you are a woman and three standard drinks per day if you are a man. A standard drink is can (220 ml) of beer, 1 glass (100 ml) of wine or 1 nip (30 ml) of spirits.

4. Lose weight, if needed

One of the most effective ways to combat blood pressure is to lose some weight, if you are overweight. Even a modest reduction goes a long way to reduce blood pressure. Consume a diet that is lower in calories and engage in regular exercise to achieve a healthier weight.