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Do you have high blood pressure? Discover the benefits of the Mediterranean and DASH diets and how people can naturally lower their blood pressure with olive oil.

In the last 40 years, the number of people with high blood pressure (Hypertension) has doubled [1]. The American Heart Association estimates that nearly half of Americans over 20 years old have high blood pressure. And also, according to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure in African Americans is the highest in the world [2]. Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke; most people who die from cardiovascular diseases have some form of Hypertension.

Hypertension is a severe disease that can put your life and quality of life at risk. Most people with high blood pressure know to reduce sodium in their diets, but adding olive oil can also help to improve outcomes. Olive oil is well known for its role in reducing heart disease and atherosclerosis and can also help reduce blood pressure for people who suffer from Hypertension. If you are looking to make dietary changes to beat Hypertension, look into one of two diets that are rated #1 by U.S. News--the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet or the Mediterranean diet.

Getting Started on the DASH Diet

The DASH diet has been found to lower blood pressure in as little as two weeks. This diet focuses on whole foods and ingredients that are high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium. These nutrients help control blood pressure. The diet limits foods that are high in sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars. The following are simple guidelines for following the DASH diet [3]:

  • Sodium: Less than 2,300 mg a day. The DASH diet limits sodium to around 1 teaspoon of table salt a day.
  • Fats and oils: 2-3 servings per day. The Dash is not necessarily a low-fat diet. Instead, it's a low saturated fat diet. This means that you can replace unhealthy saturated fats with unsaturated fats like olive oil. 
  • Sweets and added sugars: 5 servings or less a week. 
  • Fat-free/low-fat dairy products 2-3 servings per day. The DASH diet avoids many types of cheese because they tend to be high in sodium. Low-fat dairy products are recommended to help people avoid saturated fats found in dairy products.
  • Fruits and Vegetables: 4-5 servings of each per day 
  • Lean meats: 6 ounces or less. Skip processed meat and deli meats. Avoid red meats because they contain saturated fats. 
  • Grains: 6-8 servings per day. Choose high fiber, whole grains. 
  • Nuts, seeds, legumes: 4-5 servings a week. 

Can I have olive oil on the DASH diet?

Yes, olive oil and extra virgin olive oil are recommended on the DASH diet for two reasons:

  1. The DASH diet requires that you avoid saturated fats. Olive oil is unsaturated fat (monounsaturated, to be precise) and can be eaten on the DASH diet.
  2. The polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil have been found to lower blood pressure [4]. 

What is the difference between the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet?

There are many similarities between the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. 

  • Both diets focus on eating whole foods. Removing processed foods, low-quality carbohydrates, and fast foods from your diet is required in both the Mediterranean and DASH diets. Avoiding processed foods will go a long way to cutting your sodium intake [5]. 
  • Both diets are plant-forward diets that recommend that fruits, vegetables, and legumes make up the majority of your foods.

The differences between the diets are:

  • The Mediterranean diet doesn't require you to count calories or macros. There are no requirements on the number of servings or grams of this or that. This makes the diet easier to follow. 
  • Low-fat foods are not recommended in the Mediterranean diet. In fact, the Mediterranean diet is considered to be a moderately high-fat diet. Olive oil is the primary fat source.
  • The Mediterranean diet is not specifically a low sodium diet.  

The Mediterranean diet has been studied for its impact on blood pressure. In a 2020 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, the Mediterranean diet was found to lower blood pressure better than a low-fat vegan diet [6]. 

Conclusion 

Hypertension is a serious condition where blood pressure is too high. This can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and more. Fortunately, there are several simple lifestyle changes that you can make to help lower your blood pressure naturally. One of these changes is adopting a new diet, like the Mediterranean diet or the DASH diet with a health dose of extra virgin olive oil.

[1] The Complete Beginner’s Guide to the DASH Diet

[2] African Americans and Heart Disease, Stroke

[3] DASH diet: Healthy eating to lower your blood pressure

[4] The Effect of High Polyphenol Extra Virgin Olive Oil on Blood Pressure and Arterial Stiffness in Healthy Australian Adults: A Randomized, Controlled, Cross-Over Study

[5] Mediterranean Diet 101: A Meal Plan and Beginner’s Guide

[6] A Mediterranean Diet and Low-Fat Vegan Diet to Improve Body Weight and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors: A Randomized, Cross-over Trial

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