Blood pressure warning: The ‘healthy’ food that may boost your reading – ‘Significant’

Dr Chris Steele shares diet tips on reducing blood pressure

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High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is the predecessor of serious health problems, ranging from heart attacks to strokes. It’s no surprise that what you eat can affect your reading, with some foods being able to lower your levels while others can boost them instead. While healthy foods like salads are usually a good choice, Greek salad offers two ingredients that are packed with salt.

Sonia Pombo, Campaign Manager at Action on Salt, told “Greek salads can be a great way to include vegetables, healthy fats, and protein into your diet.

“However, some of the ingredients traditionally included in Greek salads have high salt content.

“These ingredients include feta cheese and olives. [And] regular consumption of high-salt foods can raise our blood pressure and put us at increased risk of suffering from heart attacks and strokes.”

While having Greek salad, or even feta and olives, as a one-off won’t be detrimental to your levels, eating foods high in salt regularly could raise your reading.

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Salt plays a crucial role in blood pressure as eating too much of the common ingredient is considered the “single biggest” cause of hypertension, according to Blood Pressure UK.

The reason why the seasoning could be harmful to your levels comes down to water retention.

Eating too much salt will put extra water in your blood, meaning there will be extra pressure on your blood vessel walls. And this by definition describes high blood pressure.

“This gradual raising of blood pressure is relatively symptomless and often happens without us even realising, but is very dangerous and if high blood pressure goes unnoticed, can lead to increased risk of heart attacks and strokes,” said the expert.

That’s why it’s important to stay below the recommended salt intake, which is marked at six grams of salt per day. 

However, eating feta and olives could quickly take up a chunk of this limit.

Mrs Pombo said: “A standard 30g serving of feta cheese provides an average of 0.7g of salt, while a standard 15g portion of green olives (three to four olives) provides up to 1g of salt. 

“This means that your Greek salad could be providing up to 1.7g of salt from these two ingredients alone.

“Shop-bought and restaurant salads often come with ‘extra’ salt and can contain as much as 2.6g in one portion. 

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“When factoring in larger portion sizes and dressings, they can easily contribute a significant amount to our daily limit.”

It’s important to note that your salt intake doesn’t only come from the salt shaker, stored in a kitchen cupboard, but also the foods and ingredients you buy in a store.

That’s why the expert recommended looking at labels when you shop.

She said: “With the variation in salt levels between pre-packaged salads, and other store-bought foods, it is important to look out for the front of pack colour coded label.”

However, you don’t have to ditch your Greek salad fix altogether.

Mrs Pombo shared how to make the refreshing meal more friendly to your blood pressure levels. She said: “Greek salad is an iconic dish typically made with a handful of fresh ingredients, but there are some things you can do to make it that little bit healthier and lower in salt. 

“Adding more tomatoes, green peppers and cucumber, and less feta and olives, will reduce the salt content significantly.”

She also suggested swapping green olives for their black counterparts as they are lower in salt.

Plus, avoiding salt when it comes to the dressing could also help.

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