A Mediterranean Diet for High Blood Pressure

The Mediterranean diet is an umbrella term for the Mediterranean regions’ (consisting of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea) eating habits. The food habits vary among these regions based on various factors like culture, agriculture, geography, etc. Therefore, there is no particular standard Mediterranean diet. Nonetheless, there are certain common features.

You may avoid all of the repercussions of high blood pressure with some aid from food, such as those found in the Mediterranean diet. 

Why choose a Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest diet plans by multiple health experts. A study has noted that a Mediterranean-style diet effectively prevents and treats high blood pressure and associated diseases like cholesterol issues, weight gain, obesity, diabetes, heart diseases and stroke.

The diet emphasises healthy dietary patterns. A typical Mediterranean diet contains lots of fruits and vegetables. In addition, it includes beans, nuts, legumes, and seeds. Olive oil and whole-grain food are staples in the diet along with moderate amounts of seafood, lean meat and dairy. The diet also restricts added sugar, salt, processed and refined foods. 

The Mediterranean diet rarely contains canned, deep-fried or junk foods. They also avoid foods high in preservatives. High sodium dishes like pickles, mayonnaise, burgers and other processed foods are a big NO! Wine with meals in moderate quantities is quite popular.

Studies show that olive oil is a significant ingredient in the Mediterranean diet. It lowers the risk of high blood pressure. Moreover, hypertensive patients subjected to a Mediterranean diet had shown positive changes after a certain period. The extra virgin olive oil may help eliminate abnormal cholesterol from blood vessels. It prevents them from obstructions in blood flow. Additionally, it also improves the endothelial lining. It is the lining of blood vessels where blood vessels constrict during fat deposits.

Mediterranean Foods for High-Blood Pressure

A study shows that a Mediterranean diet containing fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats helps reduce blood pressure. Another study also states that recommended quantities of Mediterranean foods and lifestyle modifications may reduce the incidence of other diseases related to hypertension. It includes diabetes, cardiac disorder, and likewise.

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fat is crucial as it has all the vital nutrients for controlling blood pressure. Potassium is one of the major minerals in most vegetables and fruits. It dilates the blood vessels for smooth blood flow. In addition, vegetables and fruits are dense in dietary fibres, which helps you remain satiated for a long time. Thus it prevents you from overeating or bingeing on unhealthy snacks, ultimately preventing weight gain. Moreover, dietary fibres also contain harmful fat deposits along blood vessels. Additionally, they also control diabetes and your overall health. 

Here are some of the Mediterranean diet’s main components, great for people with high blood pressure.

Fatty Fish

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish have anti-inflammatory properties and reduce oxylipins in your blood. It is a compound that narrows blood vessels to cause blockage in blood flow. Therefore, omega-3 fatty acids lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiac disease. Salmon, tuna, herring and mackerel are all rich in omega 3’s.

Citrus Fruits

Studies have noted that citrus fruits have antihypertensive properties which lower high blood pressure. Vitamin C helps remove excess body fluids, which result in high blood pressure. In addition, the antioxidants prevent radical cell injury that induces multiple disorders like blood pressure, cardiac diseases, diabetes, etc.

Berries

Berries have dense dietary fibre and anthocyanins, the colour giving pigment. Study shows anthocyanins increase nitric oxide, which helps dilate the blood vessels. It facilitates smooth blood circulation that results in lowering blood pressure.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes contain lycopene. It is an antioxidant and imparts red colour to tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables. A study observes that it helps reduce the risk of hypertension that may cause a heart attack or stroke. 

Lycopene reduces low-density lipids or bad cholesterol. Otherwise, it may deposit along the walls of your blood vessels resulting in a blood clot. Moreover, lycopene also increases good cholesterol or HDL.

Chia, Flax and Pumpkin Seeds

A study states these seeds, especially flax seeds, contain healthy fats and dietary fibre, regulating healthy blood pressure. They are also dense in magnesium and potassium. A study found they are associated with vasodilation, also known as dilation of blood vessels. Therefore, it helps smooth blood flow, thereby preventing high blood pressure.

Green Vegetables

Vegetables like broccoli are necessary to regulate blood pressure because it contains flavonoids, an antioxidant that prevents blood pressure. Moreover, it also contains dietary fibre. As a result, it prevents the accumulation of fatty deposits along blood vessels. In addition, studies show broccoli is rich in potassium, magnesium and calcium, minerals that regulate blood pressure.

Research found that spinach effectively regulates high blood pressure as it has a good content of calcium, magnesium, nitrates, potassium, and antioxidants.

Lean Meat

Lean meat refers to fat-free meat like skinless chicken, turkey, fatless red meat etc. It is the healthy option for any healthy diet as it prevents unhealthy fat deposition in your body.

Mediterranean Diet Recipes for Dinner

Healthy changes in your diet are one of the significant steps for lowering your high blood pressure. These dinner recipes are healthy and straightforward.They have low levels of fat and sodium and have a good amount of potassium, a vital element to reduce your blood pressure. It helps dilate the blood vessels. 

Grilled Eggplant and Tomatoes with Whole Wheat Pasta

The combination of grilled eggplant and tomato served with whole-grain pasta is an easy and healthy dinner.

Serves: 2

Calories: 174 kCal per serving

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • Tomatoes (chopped): 1 cup
  • Eggplant (thinly sliced): 1 cup
  • Basil Leaves (chopped): ¼ cup
  • Oregano: 1 teaspoon
  • Pepper (crushed): 1 teaspoon
  • Garlic (grated): 1 tablespoon
  • Ginger (grated): 1 tablespoon
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: 4 tablespoons
  • Whole Wheat Pasta (cooked): 1 cup

Method

  1. Add tomatoes, eggplant, oregano, ginger, garlic, oregano, and pepper & salt in a bowl. Toss them well with some olive oil. 
  2. Add them to a pan or grill them on low to medium flame.
  3. Grill until well cooked and slightly crispy.
  4. Add them to the pasta and toss well.
  5. Serve while hot. 

Beans and Veggies with Hummus

It is a simple, heart-healthy and nutritious recipe with all the nutrients of beans, sweet potato and spinach.

Serves: 2

Calories: 440 kCal

Preparation Time: 15 mins

Ingredients

  • Large Sweet Potato (boiled): 1
  • Spinach (chopped): 1 cup
  • Black Beans (cooked): 1 cup
  • Salt: ½ tsp
  • Hummus: 1 cup
  • Chilli flakes: 1 tsp

Method

  1. To a pan, add a cup of water. Add salt to taste and allow the water to boil.
  2. As it comes to a boil, add in the spinach and switch off the heat. Allow to sit in the hot water for a minute or 2 until blanched. 
  3. Cut the sweet potato in half and scoop out some of the potato from the centre of each half.
  4. Add the spinach and beans to the cavity where you split the sweet potato.
  5. Sprinkle chilli flakes on top to taste.
  6. Top with hummus and serve immediately.

Roasted Chicken with Brussels Sprouts

Roast chicken is not only healthy but also very easy to make. Brussel Sprouts add that extra element of crunch to the dish, so make your Brussels sprouts as crispy as you like.

Serves: 2

Calories: 336 kCal

Preparation Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • Chicken Thighs (skinned): 4 
  • Brussels Sprouts: 1 cup
  • Pure Maple Syrup: 1 tbsp
  • Black Pepper (crushed): 1 tsp
  • Dried Blueberries or Raisins: 1 tbsp
  • Fresh Thyme: 1 tbsp
  • Olive Oil: 2 tbsp

Directions

  1. Combine maple syrup, thyme, salt, pepper, and oil in a small bowl.
  2. To a bigger bowl, add chicken and Brussels sprouts.
  3. Marinate with 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.
  4. Transfer the chicken and sprouts to a pan.
  5. Roast them till they are cooked through.
  6. Brush the dressing on the chicken.
  7. Roast until golden brown. 
  8. Garnish with dried blueberries or raisins. 
  9. Serve while hot. 

Grilled Salmon with Quinoa

Serves: 2

Calories: 486 kCal

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • Brussels Sprouts (halved): 1 cup
  • Salmon Fillet: 300 g, divided into two portions
  • Quinoa (cooked): 2 cups
  • Pepper (crushed): 1 tsp
  • Sun-Dried Tomatoes (chopped): ¼ cup
  • Olives (chopped): ¼ cup
  • Lemon Juice: 2 tbsp
  • Olive Oil: 2 tsp
  • Garlic (minced): 1 tbsp
  • Fresh Parsley (chopped): ¼ cup

Directions

  1. Add brussels sprouts, oil, and a pinch of salt & pepper to a large bowl and toss well. 
  2. Transfer to a grill pan on medium heat.
  3. Cook until tender.
  4. Add salmon and marinate with salt, pepper and lemon juice to another bowl.
  5. Grill salmon on low flame for 10 minutes or until done.
  6. Mix the cooked quinoa with sun-dried tomatoes, olives and parsley.
  7. Serve Brussels sprouts and salmon with the quinoa.

Preventive Measures to Control High Blood Pressure

Lifestyle has a vital role in preventing and regulating your high blood pressure. A healthy lifestyle can help you manage your blood pressure effectively. It includes a well balanced and nutritious diet, exercise etc. Additionally, it also makes you less dependent on medications. 

Here are a few lifestyle modifications to lower your high blood pressure.

Maintain an Optimal Body Weight 

Weight loss is one of the best lifestyle modifications to regulate your blood pressure. Even a mild weight loss in the case of obese patients indicate a variation in blood pressure. A study states that you can experience a drop of 1-millimetre mercury (the measure of blood pressure), with a decline in each kilogram of loss in body weight.

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise or a daily workout for about 30 minutes for at least five days a week may reduce your blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mm of Hg. However, it is necessary to maintain your workout schedule. Otherwise, it may result in relapse. Brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming may help reduce your blood pressure. Yoga and breathing techniques also help.

Exercise also helps reduce stress. A study states that during stress, the body secretes cortisol, a stress hormone that causes your heart to beat abnormally and result in high blood pressure. Brisk walking is an excellent way to destress yourself.

Eat a Healthy Diet

A well balanced and nutritious diet helps to a large extent. It includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and high quality protein. These foods are rich in dietary fibre, antioxidants and essential minerals. They are effective in controlling the factors resulting in high blood pressure. 

You may also include a diet rich in potassium. Potassium can balance the sodium level in your body preventing water retention that results in blood pressure. It also helps dilate the blood vessels, ensuring smooth blood flow across the blood vessels. Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of potassium.

Limit Sodium

Abnormal levels of sodium result in the retention of fluids across your body. It, in turn, shoots up the blood pressure. Although it can be challenging to cut off from a sodium diet, you can gradually reduce the salt from your diet as your taste buds adapt to it. It is necessary to reduce the salt intake if you are hypertensive. 

Here are a few ways to restrict your sodium levels.

  1. Choose all fresh foods and avoid eating out.
  2. Avoid processed, pickled and canned foods. They are high in sodium. In addition, people use sodium as a preservative in most processed food.
  3. Junk food like burgers, french fries, and pizza have high levels of sodium as well as unhealthy fats, margarine and likewise.
  4. Avoid adding salt to your diet. Instead, use herbs or spices to enhance the flavour.

Stay far away from  Alcohol

Research proves that alcohol increases your blood pressure. In addition, it has the potential to reduce the nitrates level in the body. Nitrate relaxes your blood vessels to ease blood circulation. Alcohol also damages the walls of the blood vessels causing arterial diseases.

Stop Smoking

Cigarettes contain nicotine. It may deposit along the walls of the blood vessels. As a result, it narrows the blood vessels, disrupting blood circulation and causing an increase in blood pressure. However, smoking cessation may normalise your blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart diseases. 

The Bottom Line

Indulging in a Mediterranean diet can help you prevent and control your high blood pressure. since the diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and whole grains. Lowering or preventing blood pressure with dietary changes, mindful approaches, and lifestyle modification are equally beneficial and effective. 

However, some food may interact with your medication, complicating your treatment. Therefore, you need to confirm before switching to any diet plan with your doctor. That will help you avoid any adverse effects.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What meat is good for high blood pressure?

A. Meat with comparatively low-fat content is good for high blood pressure. Chicken, turkey, fish, and lean cuts of meat are good for maintaining blood pressure. Lean meat from animal sources are high in biological value proteins and help in maintaining good heart health.

Q. What kind of meal is most suitable for a person with hypertension?

A. Balanced meals containing all food groups are suitable for hypertension. It includes whole grains, millets, many fruits and vegetables, low fat and low sodium food items. It should also contain high biological value proteins like eggs, chicken, fish, turkey, shrimp etc. 

Q. Do burgers raise hypertension?

A. Burgers may raise your hypertension as they contain unhealthy fats and mayonnaise along with refined carbohydrates and have minimal amounts of fresh ingredients. However, you can choose a healthy version if available in the market or make a healthier version at home. A healthier version will be low in sodium and devoid of unhealthy fats or preservatives and will not raise blood pressure or lead to hypertension.

Q. Is mayonnaise good for high blood pressure?

A. Mayonnaise is high in saturated fats, triglycerides and sodium as it contains salts and preservatives. Therefore, it is harmful to blood pressure and may result in hypertension. 

Q. Are pickles good for hypertension?

A. Pickles contain a lot of sodium, oil and salts and preservatives. That is why pickles are harmful to hypertension. Pickles are kept in oil for long periods of time to develop flavour. In this time, the oil can turn rancid, which is very harmful to heart health. 

Q. What veggies are good for high blood pressure?

A. Tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, and beetroots are some examples of veggies that are suitable for controlling high blood pressure. That is because they are high in dietary fibres. Therefore, they prevent deposits of unhealthy fats. They also contain potassium which has vasodilation properties.

Q. Can a Mediterranean diet help you lose weight?

A. Yes, the Mediterranean diet contains lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and many more healthy ingredients. The dense dietary fibre in fruits and vegetables makes you satiated. In addition, it prevents you from overeating, thus helping you lose weight.

Q. Does the Mediterranean diet include dairy?

A. Yes, the Mediterranean includes dairy but in moderate quantities comparatively. Low-fat cheese and yoghurt are part of the Mediterranean diet. Skimmed milk or low/no fat milk is allowed as it has less fat and good quality protein. 

Q. Does the Mediterranean diet include pasta?

A. Yes, the Mediterranean diet includes whole-grain pasta or millet pasta. These types of pasta are way healthier than other regularly available refined kinds of pasta. It is dense in nutrients, dietary fibre and minerals and has a much  lower  glycemic index, than refined products do.