Top 8 Mediterranean Foods for Better Blood Pressure
High-blood pressure, hypertension... It goes by many names. Whichever term your doctor uses, it's definitely something you don't want to hear. Blood pressure is a measure of how much pressure your blood is exerting on your arteries. There are natural rises and falls in pressure throughout the day, and that's normal! When blood pressure becomes too high and consistently out of the norm, that's what we call hypertension.
High-blood pressure increases risk for heart disease, heart attack and associated cardiovascular symptoms like chest pain. It also increases risk for kidney disease, stroke and impaired cognitive function. Luckily, these consequences of high-blood pressure are all easily preventable with some major help from food, like the ones you find in the Mediterranean diet. Here are the top dietitian-approved foods to eat more of for better blood pressure.
Top Mediterranean Foods for High-Blood Pressure
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a randomized intervention trial that showed how Mediterranean foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds and healthy fats lower blood pressure. Similar studies show that high intake of Mediterranean foods and swapping out highly processed, high salt and high saturated fat foods for those more in line with the Mediterranean diet can help to lower risk of hypertension and associated diseases.
Aiming for a diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and unsaturated fats is important for better blood pressure, and Mediterranean foods fit the bill. Here are some top picks:
1. Salmon and other fatty fish
The healthy omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and fish like mackerel, herring and albacore tuna help to reduce inflammation and reduce oxylipins, a compound that constricts blood vessels and increases blood pressure. Intake of this heart healthy fat is associated with lower blood pressure and decreased risk of heart disease. The next time you're out to dinner, consider the salmon.
This citrus fruit has anti-hypertensive properties and nutrients like vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants associated with healthy blood pressure levels.
3. Raspberries, blueberries and strawberries
Berries are rich in fiber and anthocyanins, which we can thank for giving berries their vibrant magenta and blue colors. Berries are beautiful inside and out, as anthocyanins increase nitric oxide, which has vasodilation effects. They also are involved in calcium channel blocking, resulting in smooth muscle relaxation. Vasodilation and smooth muscle relaxation both aid in lowering blood pressure.
5. Beans and legumes
The fiber, glycemic index and isoflavones in beans and legumes give you good reason to up your intake. Add them to salads, soups, and dinners as increased intake is associated with healthy blood pressure levels.
Get Recipes: Healthy Bean Recipes
6. Chia, flax and pumpkin seeds
These seeds contain healthy fats and fiber, which are involved in healthy blood pressure regulation. Electrolytes like magnesium and potassium are involved in vasodilation and calcium channel blocking, which are both beneficial for better blood pressure. So add some chia, flax or pumpkin seeds to snack time or your morning bowl of oatmeal.
High veggie intake is important when managing blood pressure. Vegetables, like broccoli, are full of flavonoids (which is a type of antioxidant), fiber and blood pressure-regulating minerals like potassium, magnesium and calcium.
Another great source of nitrates, potassium, magnesium, calcium and antioxidants is spinach. It's safe to say that Popeye probably didn't have any issues with his blood pressure levels.
The Bottom Line
Lowering blood pressure can be healthy, delicious and not nearly as complicated as you may think. Incorporate a variety of Mediterranean foods, like fruits, veggies, whole grains and healthy fats to reap the blood-pressure-lowering benefits.