Finding the right balance of blood pressure seems like a challenging quest for many. Anything above 120 systolic and 80 diastolic pressure is unhealthy, aka hypertension. However, there are several reasons why you should be keeping your blood pressure within a healthy range. First, it develops over the years, increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure. And as for women, it raises the likelihood of pregnancy complications. While there’s no cure, one can manage blood pressure by adding heart-healthy foods to your dietary roster. Among these are Mediterranean foods, known for their numerous advantages.
As always, eating right is the first step towards better blood pressure. Your primary objective is to cut down on unhealthy foods, making the Mediterranean diet worth trying. There are several reasons why it is suitable for blood pressure. First, the Mediterranean diet is a practical approach to substituting sugars and unhealthy fats with healthier ones. Thus, creating a positive effect on your wellbeing.
An Introduction to Mediterranean Diet
Mediterranean cuisine is becoming more and more popular among all the cuisines worldwide. While many people view the Mediterranean diet as a Greek staple, its roots also lie in Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Italy, and Spain. Plant-based foods form the fundamentals of this diet, including olive oil, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, vegetables, and fruits. In other words, the Mediterranean diet strictly avoids the extensive consumption of saturated fats, red meat, and refined alcohol. However, people following it can eat low-fat dairy products, fish, and lean cut poultry. Yet, they’re of secondary importance in the diet.
The Mediterranean diet serves as a boon for blood pressure management. Many available food options are relatively low in calories, reducing the risk of cholesterol-induced blood pressure. The MedDiet shows a favourable effect on blood pressure as per an observational study. Furthermore, Dietary Guidelines for Americans also endorse this diet plan. If it doesn’t convince you, then let’s shed light on the summarised report by the World Health Organisation, which recognises MedDiet as a sustainable and healthy eating pattern.
Top 9 Mediterranean Foods For Better Blood Pressure
1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil or EVOO is the silver thread in a typical Mediterranean diet. Olives go through a mechanical process of crushing and extracting the oil without heat or chemicals. Therefore, extra virgin olive oil is the least processed and healthiest oil. In addition, an observational study states that consuming extra virgin olive oil has antihypertensive effects. Extra virgin olive oil is suitable for high blood pressure because of its high antioxidant polyphenol and oleic acid content.
Extra virgin olive oil improves various aspects related to blood pressure. For example, it protects the blood vessels from unwanted clotting and plaque deposition. Thus, it prevents blood vessel damage which is notorious for causing high blood pressure.
2. Fatty Fish
Salmon and other fatty fishes like tuna, mackerel, and herring form a crucial component of Mediterranean foods. They provide a healthy dose of fats, which substitute for saturated and trans fats. In addition, intake of fatty fish reduces oxylipins, a compound with blood vessel constricting properties. And that’s where the blood pressure enters the picture. Because when there are no constricted blood vessels, there’s lower blood pressure.
Moreover, higher omega-3 intake from fatty fish is closely related to reduced inflammation, thereby providing notable heart benefits. You can try roasted salmon, flaked tuna, or grilled mackerel with steamed green beans as Mediterranean-inspired meal options.
When talking about Mediterranean foods, tomatoes are always part of the picture. While technically called a fruit, tomatoes provide fewer sugars and calories when compared to other fruits. You can eat them raw, stewed, grilled, roasted, or as a base for curries and sauce. However, tomato juice is the ideal way to promote lower blood pressure. A study points out that consuming unsalted tomato juice improves systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Tomatoes contain a pigment called lycopene which has an antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-atherogenic, cardioprotective, and antiplatelet effect. In addition to these, it is also high in potassium which helps neutralize the ill effects of high sodium. Including tomatoes daily in the salad can help lower blood pressure.
4. Swiss Chard
Sauteed Swiss chard is probably one of the everyday Mediterranean side dishes. The leafy green is full of potassium and magnesium, two vital minerals involved in blood pressure regulation. According to the USDA data, 100 grams of cooked Swiss chard offers 549mg of potassium and 86mg of magnesium. Thus, meeting the daily needs of blood pressure balancing nutrients.
Along with potassium and magnesium, the phytonutrients in Swiss chard neutralise the pro-inflammatory enzymes. They are responsible for high blood pressure. It also aids in reducing the stress exerted on your cardiovascular system. Hence, allowing the blood vessels to relax.
Beans are rich in potassium, and magnesium, and are also a good source of proteins. They all come together to protect your heart. Be it kidney, pinto, lima, white, or black beans, they’re all perfect for lowering blood pressure. Please note that paring beans and lentils bump up the overall health benefits. For instance, a study points out that beans and lentils show remarkable improvement in systolic blood pressure in people with or without hypertension. You can add them into soups and salads to boost protein and fibre daily.
It’s safe to say that eating spinach promotes better blood pressure. It is full of heart-healthy antioxidants, magnesium, potassium, and nitrates, making spinach a perfect Mediterranean dish for hypertensive people. According to a study, intake of spinach soup daily leads to reduced artery stiffness, which improves blood pressure. It’s also suitable to treat low potassium levels. You can try spinach in soup, pasta, or curries.
Raw intake of spinach should be avoided in hypertensives as it is high in sodium. Consume it after cooking, leaching or boiling.
Everyone is familiar with strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Berries are laden with anthocyanins and possess a vasodilation effect. In simple terms, they dilate and relax the blood vessels to control blood pressure. Berries also support calcium channel blocking, which aids in bringing down blood pressure levels. Berries also offer countless other advantages like reducing inflammation, inducing a healthy gut, and preventing urinary tract infections. Due to their delectable nature, you can add berries to smoothies or can be eaten raw.
An indispensable part of the MedDiet, Seeds are a satiating source of fat and magnesium. Furthermore, they’re a natural remedy for healthy blood pressure regulation. Pumpkin seeds, for example, are a concentrated source of arginine, an amino acid capable of nitric oxide production. When the body receives an ample amount of nitric oxide, it stimulates blood vessel relaxation. Thus, they lower high blood pressure.
Not just pumpkin seeds, but you can also try chia and flax seeds. Supplementing the diet with chia or flax seeds will boost potassium and magnesium intake. As mentioned earlier, these nutrients are vital for robust blood pressure. On the other hand, seeds are convenient to include in your daily routine. You can enjoy them raw, roasted, or as a crunchy addition to salads.
9. Red Wine
Alcohol is typically not on the Mediterranean food list, but red wine is an exception. Drinking red wine occasionally might positively contribute to blood pressure. However, it should be limited to one or two glasses once or twice a week. However, there’s no solid scientific evidence to back up the cause-and-effect link between red wine and heart health. Antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols may help protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart.
Red wine derived from darker grapes offers antioxidants like proanthocyanidins, catechin, resveratrol and epicatechin. Of these, resveratrol primarily provides heart-healthy benefits.
Potential Downsides of Mediterranean Foods
The Mediterranean diet has a fair amount of benefits, but some side effects are there. However, compared to disadvantages, the Mediterranean diet offers a plethora of positive features. Nevertheless, before starting on Mediterranean foods, here are some criteria that may be negative for you.
- Everyone has different body types. Some people are vulnerable to weight gain after eating nuts and olive oil fats.
- In the Mediterranean diet, dairy products are of secondary importance. Eating fewer dairy products could cause calcium loss. In addition, it is detrimental to women nearing menopause.
- Since there are no specific calorie guidelines, it’s possible to overeat or exceed the daily calorie intake levels. Thus, people with obesity and diabetes must be extra careful.
- Some people, particularly older adults, tend to experience gas and diarrhoea after switching to Mediterranean foods. Your microbiome or the gut flora takes time to adjust to new foods.
Other Ways to Improve Blood Pressure
1. Reduce Stress
We live in a world run by stressful times. Stress, be it due to family or the workplace, has a damaging effect on blood pressure. Therefore, reducing stress for better blood pressure levels is highly advised. Find what works for you. It could be yoga, meditation, reading, or listening to music. What’s more, a study reports that listening to music daily can significantly lower systolic blood pressure.
2. Better Sleep Schedule
Everyone needs sound sleep to function correctly. So it’s not surprising that even your blood pressure demands you to follow a decent sleep schedule. Sleep deprivation elevates the risk of hypertension. Thus, setting a regular sleep schedule is exceptionally crucial.
3. Exercise Regularly
A health care regime is incomplete without regular exercise. Lose weight if you’re obese. Exercise is not just for overweight people, but even seemingly fit people require at least one hour dedicated to physical activities. Plus, losing those extra pounds and fat can reduce your blood pressure.
4. Stop Smoking
Smoking raises blood pressure levels, even if you’re healthy. However, this is because the chemicals from tobacco cause inflammation, damage your heart walls and narrow your arteries. Such hardened and damaged arteries are the main villains in blood pressure abnormalities. Thus, it’s pretty clear that smoking does no good for your health.
5. Follow The Doctor’s Advice
Whatever natural remedy you follow, it’s a general rule of thumb to always listen to your doctor. Talk with a qualified medical professional to know what works best for you and your blood pressure. Moreover, taking prescription drugs is effective in the long run.
Despite popular belief, blood pressure management is not nearly as complicated as you think. The wide array of foods within the Mediterranean diet can contribute to better, healthier blood pressure levels. Consuming unsaturated fats like olive oil is one of the potent ways to keep blood pressure in check. In terms of proteins, foods high in omega-3s — namely fatty fish, are best for hypertension. Portions are essential, too, particularly for overweight and diabetic people with high blood pressure. Finally, make it a point to exercise regularly and eat healthily. While there are no one-size-fits-all diet plans, following the Mediterranean diet has significant health benefits.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Is the Mediterranean diet good for high blood pressure and cholesterol?
A. Yes, the Mediterranean diet is suitable for blood pressure and cholesterol. However, the diet focuses on including unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats. It, in turn, significantly boosts your HDL or good cholesterol levels. When good cholesterol rises, it clears out the bad kind from the bloodstream. Also, in the Mediterranean diet, the inclusion of antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids plays a role in managing blood pressure levels.
Q. What meals are good for high blood pressure?
A. For bringing back your blood pressure to optimum levels, it’s advised to include meals packed with potassium, magnesium, omega-3 fats, and antioxidants. In addition, you can make meal plans by pairing two or more blood pressure friendly foods. For example, vegetable and hummus sandwiches or salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and white beans are perfect Mediterranean meals. For non-vegetarians, grilled salmon and veggies make a balanced seafood dinner.
Q. What meat is good for high blood pressure?
A. Meat can be on the menu for high blood pressure, but only the leanest cuts and small portions. Always choose skinless poultry, typically chicken and turkey, and lean red meat. Under lean cuts of red meat, you can include tenderloin, fillet mignon, flank, or top round. In addition, it would help if you avoided or limited the consumption of sausages, processed deli meats, cured bacon, and hot dogs.
Q. Is peanut butter OK on the Mediterranean diet?
A. 100 grams of peanut butter contains about 10 grams of saturated fat. In other words, even two tablespoons of it have 3.3g of saturated fat. As you know, the Mediterranean diet recommends lowering your saturated fat intake. Thus, peanut butter is not a typical food in the Mediterranean diet. However, you can eat it in moderation and make sure to buy organic peanut butter.
Q. Is Mediterranean food gluten-free?
A. A traditional Mediterranean eating pattern may not necessarily be gluten-free. However, you can turn into one. Consequently, a gluten-free Mediterranean diet is where you’ll be avoiding rye, wheat, and barley, thereby substituting these with gluten-free alternatives. For example, you can substitute wheat with brown rice and quinoa.
Q. Can I eat Mediterranean food while pregnant?
A. Yes, the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest eating patterns for expecting moms and growing babies. In particular, it supports healthy weight gain during pregnancy. In addition, the Mediterranean diet is a balanced diet pattern, meaning it would offer healthy, nutritious combinations. When a pregnant mother receives balanced nutrients, it protects the mother and baby from pathological conditions.
Q. Does Mediterranean food cause diarrhoea?
A. There are chances of experiencing diarrhoea, bloating, and gas, particularly for people with pre-existing digestive issues. In addition, since the Mediterranean diet includes a lot of raw vegetable consumption, it could lead to an upset stomach. If you have lactose intolerance or celiac disease, consult a doctor before switching to the Mediterranean diet.