How to tailor your diet to prevent stroke
Diet plays a huge part in stroke risk, as it does for many other conditions. In fact, following a heart-healthy diet will offer significant stroke protection as well. Why is that? Well, a stroke occurs when blood flow becomes blocked to a portion of the brain.
A heart attack is when a blockage causes blood flow to be cut off from a portion of the heart. So anything we can do to prevent harmful build up in our arteries helps maintain a healthy blood flow and ensures that every part of our bodies receives enough oxygen.
Here is how to tailor your diet to stroke prevention.
Bump Up Your Fiber
Eating a diet high in fiber helps to prevent stroke because of its role in lowering cholesterol and maintaining a healthy weight. Most of us don’t get enough fiber. Current recommendations suggest 25-30 grams of fiber each day from food.
The best way to get more fiber from food is to eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, brown rice, and seeds. Popcorn is an excellent high-fiber treat (minus the movie-theater butter).
It’s worth it because studies show that stroke risk goes down by 7% for every additional 7 grams of fiber consumed each day.
Whole Fruits are Critical
It’s not a bad thing to take a daily multivitamin to fill in nutritional deficiencies, but eating more fruit each day may make it unnecessary. Fruit is nature’s sweet gift to us because it is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. All of that goodness is delivered with a healthy dose of fiber, too.
Citrus fruits seem to offer particularly stong protection against stroke. A large study that followed 70,000 women over 14 years found that those who ate the most citrus had a 19% lower risk of stroke than the women who consumed the least.
But don’t worry if you don’t care for citrus – apples and pears have also been found to offer strong stroke prevention benefits. Speaking generally, you could reduce your risk of stroke by 32% for every 7 ounces (200 grams) of fruit you eat per day.
Don’t Forget the Veggies
Eating more vegetables can also lower your stroke risk – around 11% for every 7 ounces (200 grams) consumed daily. Research indicates that the real power players are leafy greens, which offer a 20% reduction in the incidence of stroke and heart disease.
Tomatoes, while technically a fruit, are also fantastic stroke-preventing fare. The reason is that these tasty red orbs are high in lycopene. A study in Finnish men between the ages of 46 and 55 found that those who consumed the most lycopene were a stunning 55% less likely to experience a stroke.
You can also find a good amount of lycopene in asparagus and red cabbage, as well as grapefruit, papaya, and watermelon.
Healthy Sources of Protein
Many of us rely on meat as a primary source of protein, but that’s risky. Meat contains a large amount of saturated fat, which can raise our cholesterol level. If you do eat meat, rely on leaner types like fish and white meat chicken or turkey.
However, you don’t need to eat meat to get protein. Lentils, nuts, and seeds have a good amount plus other important nutrients and vital fiber. Chickpeas and quinoa are further good options. If you can shift your assumption that meat is the center of any plate, you’ll be able to eat less of it and fill up on better options.
It’s worth it, because increasing your consumption of high-quality proteins by about 20 grams per day can cut your risk of stroke by 26%.
Potassium may be one of the most important minerals in the fight against stroke. Researchers think this is because it works to relax blood vessels, lower blood pressure, and pull sodium from the body.
Potassium actually works in partnership with sodium to do its work, but too many of us have this balance way off. We all eat vastly more sodium than necessary, while only 2% of us reach our daily recommended value of potassium.
It’s not just bananas that are high in potassium. You can also get it from white and sweet potatoes, white beans, fish, spinach, and greens.
For a treat, take chocolate
Certain population studies have found that people who eat chocolate on a regular basis appear to lower their risk of experiencing a stroke. However, not just any chocolate will do. It’s only high-quality chocolate, free of common addictives used by many manufacturers, that we’d recommend eating regularly.
And the sugar and dairy content in chocolate can undo any benefit you experience, so choose only dark chocolate with at least 60% cacao. If you’re used to milk chocolate, it can be a bit of an adjustment. But like many culinary tastes, once you make the switch, you may find that milk chocolate tastes unbearably sweet.
In the end, following a stroke prevention diet is mostly common sense. You don’t have to put too much thought into it, but instead just follow the basic adage: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” That’s it.
It can be tricky to break the dependence on our Western diet, full of convenience foods with a huge number of unpronounceable ingredients. But if you take a moment to think before making a choice, you are more likely to grab that banana instead of a tube of sugary, colored yogurt. Remember too that meat can work perfectly well on the side of your plate, rather than the center.
As you make gradual shifts toward a diet based on whole foods, your stroke risk will shrink – and your waistline will, too.
Culled from www.foodeatsafe.com