Skip the Soda: Simple Food Swaps to Lower Blood Pressure

It’s no secret that high blood pressure is a widespread issue, affecting nearly 80 million Americans and putting them at risk for kidney disease and heart problems. But did you know that some of the common foods you consume daily could be responsible for raising your blood pressure? Researchers in Austria have identified certain foods rich in phosphates that can contribute to high blood pressure and provide a straightforward way to control it by omitting those items from your diet.

Phosphate-Rich Foods: The Culprits

Phosphates are common additives found in many processed foods as they are used for various purposes including enhancing flavor, improving texture, and extending shelf life. Some of the most phosphate-rich foods include colas, processed cheese, Parmesan cheese, and a majority of processed foods.

According to the Austrian study, these phosphates are responsible for the release of a hormone known as FGF23, which increases blood pressure. Here’s how it works: FGF23 is involved in the regulation of sodium excretion by the kidneys. When there are low levels of FGF23, more sodium is filtered out through the urine, leading to a decrease in blood pressure. However, high levels of FGF23 result in greater sodium reabsorption, thereby raising blood pressure.

Beyond just raising blood pressure, FGF23 can also strain the heart as it works harder to pump blood. Researcher Reinhold Erben explains, “In patients with chronic renal disease, both the phosphate levels and the levels of FGF23 are chronically high. This often leads to cardiovascular disease.”

While it is virtually impossible to eliminate all phosphates from your diet, it is essential to be mindful of the sources of these additives and choose healthier alternatives.

Healthier Food Swaps for High Blood Pressure

To lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health, try implementing the following food swaps that help cut down on phosphates:

  1. Ditch the cola: Instead of reaching for sugary, phosphate-rich soft drinks, opt for healthier beverage options like water, herbal tea, or natural fruit-infused sparkling water. Not only will this help reduce your phosphate intake, but it will also help cut down on empty calories from added sugars.

  2. Choose real cheese: Processed cheese products are high in phosphates and other additives, so opt for natural, unprocessed cheeses instead. Look for cheese made from grass-fed cows for an extra boost of nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin K2.

  3. Opt for whole, unprocessed foods: One of the best ways to cut back on phosphates is to minimize consumption of processed foods and choose whole, unprocessed options instead. This means selecting whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables to form the basis of your diet.

  4. Get creative with snacks: Snacking can be a major source of hidden phosphates, as many popular snacks include processed ingredients. Swap out chips and crackers for healthier options like air-popped popcorn, fresh fruit, vegetable sticks with hummus, or a handful of nuts.

  5. Cook at home: Preparing meals at home can greatly reduce your phosphate intake as it allows you to have control over the ingredients used. Look for recipes that feature whole foods and avoid phosphates and other additives commonly found in chef-created meals.

Conclusion: A Simple Solution to High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a significant health concern, but it turns out it can be partly controlled by making some smart food choices. By cutting back on phosphate-rich foods and beverages, and choosing healthier, unprocessed alternatives, you can lower your blood pressure and reduce the strain on your heart.

So next time you’re tempted to reach for a soft drink, processed cheese, or a pre-packaged snack, consider picking up some fruit and a glass of water instead. Your heart will thank you for it.