Are you eating yourself into an early grave? In America, someone dies from a stroke every 4 minutes. The standard Western diet has been associated with a 58 percent increase in stroke risk. This means your everyday lifestyle choices could be, quite literally, a death sentence.
On the flip side, there is a lot you can do to lower your risk of stroke, like eating the right foods. This is especially important if you have any of the following medical conditions, which are the leading causes of stroke:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- High cholesterol
- Central obesity (belly fat)
For stroke prevention, choose a well-balanced, healthy diet. The emphasis should be on natural, whole, and unprocessed foods. Choosing the right foods will help you avoid the main risk factors – such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol – and lower your risk of stroke.
Here are the 15 foods which could protect you from having a stroke:
Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids helps to raise “good” HDL cholesterol while lowering the “bad” LDL cholesterol. Balanced cholesterol levels mean healthier arteries and a reduced risk of stroke. Salmon, sardines, and mackerel are three types of fish with high levels of omega-3 to incorporate into your diet.
High levels of lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, have been associated with a significantly reduced risk of stroke. According to a study that followed more than 1,000 Finnish men aged 46 to 55, those with the highest lycopene levels were 55% less likely to have a stroke.
According to The Journal of Nutrition, dietary flavonol can help lower your risk of stroke by 20 percent. This powerful antioxidant can be found in high amounts in onions. To easily add onion to your diet, try some salmon stir-fry with extra onions for dinner.
According to population studies that followed people over time, those who ate chocolate appeared to have lower rates of stroke. But the sugar and dairy that come with most types of chocolate aren’t linked to positive health outcomes, so dark chocolate with high cacao content is the best choice. Dark chocolate will provide the most flavonoids, such as epicatechins, which enhance cognition and protect neurons in the brain.
A cup of tea
Tea contains plant nutrients that can help decrease cholesterol and blood pressure. Drinking at least 3 cups of black or green tea per day may help reduce your risk of stroke. Researchers in one study found that people who drank this amount of green or black tea had far fewer incidences of repeated stroke. One study found that those who drank 2 to 3 cups of green tea daily had a 14 percent reduced risk of stroke.
Black tea may also be especially helpful for diabetes management, which can, in turn, prevent strokes. The compounds in black tea mimic the effects of insulin and prevent starch from turning into sugar. Enjoy a cup of tea each day as part of your regular, stroke-prevention regimen.
Research has revealed that eating unsalted nuts such as walnuts, almonds, and pistachios considerably lowers the risk of death from heart attacks and strokes. In one study, adding an ounce of nuts per day seemed to cut the risk of stroke in half.
One reason why plant-based diets protect against stroke is due to the fiber found in whole plant foods. Oats are full of fiber that helps to lower LDL levels while maintaining healthy HDL levels. Studies have found that for every seven grams of fiber you eat per day, you reduce the risk of first-time stroke by nearly 7 percent. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us lack fiber in our diet, with less than 3 percent of Americans meeting the minimum daily recommendation for fiber. Eat more oats, legumes, fruits, and vegetables to increase your fiber intake.
Eating more potassium-rich foods is associated with significantly lower stroke risk. One study found that increasing potassium intake by 1600 milligrams per day was associated with a 21 percent lower risk of stroke.
Research shows that less than 2 percent of Americans reach the recommended daily potassium intake because most people don’t eat enough unprocessed plant foods. Potassium is abundant in fruits and vegetables. Greens, beans, bananas, and sweet potatoes are excellent sources of potassium – so eat up and reduce that stroke risk.
According to a meta-analysis of studies, higher magnesium intake is associated with a reduced risk of stroke. Leafy greens like spinach are all loaded with magnesium. According to studies led by Harvard researchers, leafy greens turned out to be associated with the strongest protection against major chronic diseases, including a 20 percent reduction in stroke risk with every additional serving.
Beans are high in cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber. Whether it’s kidney, pinto, or black beans, eating a cup each day will help to lower your cholesterol over time. Don’t forget to rinse the high-sodium based liquid off before consuming if you’re using canned beans!
Foods high in potassium, such as melon, can help you maintain a healthy blood pressure, which is the leading risk factor of stroke. Try having a slice of cantaloupe with your breakfast for a sweet, healthy treat.
Resveratrol, a compound found in grapes and red wine, can improve blood flow in the brain by 30 percent, thereby reducing the risk of stroke.
Plant foods, especially richly-pigmented berries, are filled with antioxidants. Antioxidant-packed foods improve blood flow, reduce inflammation, and help prevent plaque buildup in the arteries. All of these positive effects contribute to reduced stroke risk.
In a study of more than 5,000 older women over 6 years, those who ate the most antioxidant-rich foods had the lowest stroke risk.
Citrus intake has also been associated with lower stroke risk. According to a study of 70,000 women published in the journal Stroke, women who consumed the most flavonoids from citrus fruits over 14 years had a 19 percent lower risk of stroke than women who consumed the fewest. Simply sip a glass of lemon water in the morning and enjoy better health throughout the day!
Garlic is one of the best foods to prevent stroke. A human study found that regular garlic consumption resulted in a 50 percent reduction in rates of stroke! Try blending up some fresh hummus or pesto for a tasty way to add garlic to your diet.
With so many delicious foods to add to your stroke-prevention regimen, better health never tasted so good!
-The UpWellness Team