Everyday Foods That Increase Your Stroke Risk

What you eat can largely predict your future — in terms of your health, at least. While a plant-based diet does wonders for your heart and brain, a diet rich in red meats and processed foods have the opposite effect. About 800,000 Americans have a stroke every year. Don’t want to be one of them? Eat less of — or none of — these foods.

Fried chicken

Fried chicken in food basket

Put down the fried chicken. | iStock.com

It tastes amazing. You deserve a treat every now and then. But if you’re a regular at your local fried chicken restaurant, your indulgence could become a threat to your long-term health. Foods fried in oil are higher in saturated fat, which can raise your LDL cholesterol and increase your stroke risk.

What to eat instead: Grilled chicken isn’t the same, but it’s a much better option for both your heart and your brain. You’d be surprised what you can do with a grilled chicken breast and a variety of veggies.

Breakfast cereal

Man shopping in supermarket

Breakfast cereals are full of sugar. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

Sugary breakfast cereals are loaded with added sugars, which might raise blood pressure the way salt does. Some research even suggests too much of this kind of sugar can cause the liver to dump harmful fats into your bloodstream, which could also pose severe health risks.

What to eat instead: You could settle for a slightly healthier breakfast cereal first thing in the morning. You could also replace cereal and milk with homemade granola on top of a bowl of plain Greek yogurt.


Bacon pieces sitting in a cast iron skillet.

There’s no denying that bacon is not good for you. | iStock.com/VeselovaElena

Cured meats like bacon don’t belong on your breakfast table, especially if you want to avoid a stroke. A diet high in salt can lead to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for stroke. More than 75 percent of Americans who suffer a stroke also have high blood pressure.

What to eat instead: It really depends on when you fill your plate with bacon. At breakfast, try a healthier protein source, like turkey sausage. On a sandwich during lunch, try a pickle — still salty and crunchy, but not nearly as damaging to your health.

Deli meat

Sliced deli meat

Deli meats are almost just as bad as bacon. | iStock.com

Another way to cut back on the amount of salt in your diet is to say goodbye to most deli meats. Like bacon, these thin slices of meat undergo large amounts of processing to increase their shelf life and improve their flavor. They’re higher in salt and lower in protein than less processed meats.

What to eat instead: Grill and freeze a handful of chicken breasts to use throughout the week for sandwiches, salads, and other lunch or dinner recipes.


Glass bowl filled with grated cheese next to a wedge of cheese on a table.

Cheese really is awful for your cholesterol. | iStock.com/lisaaMC

Cheese is just one of many foods you should avoid if you have high cholesterol. Foods high in dietary cholesterol, if you already have low HDL or high LDL levels, increases the chances of suffering a blockage in an artery responsible for transporting blood to your brain. The resulting stroke could be fatal.

What to eat instead: You don’t have to give up cheese completely, especially if it encourages you to eat healthier foods along with it. Replace creamy cheeses with Greek yogurt to decrease your cholesterol intake.


Pot roast

Red meat is known to increase your risk of stroke. | iStock.com

Research suggests people who eat large quantities of red meat have a higher risk of stroke than those who eat other protein sources like chicken or turkey. Beef, for example, contains cholesterol and larger amounts of saturated fat, which could contribute to your stroke risk.

What to eat instead: If you can’t stand the thought of missing out on a delicious hamburger, try dressing up a veggie burger with all your favorite toppings. It’s not the same — but it’s a start.

Salted nuts

Bowl of mix nuts

Always go for unsalted nuts. | iStock.com/margouillatphotos

You may have heard that nuts aren’t good for you because of their high calorie and fat content. What’s more worrisome is their salt content. By themselves, nuts aren’t salty at all. But if you buy a package of dry roasted, flavored nuts, they’ll be swimming in salt as a means of preservation and flavor.

What to eat instead: Try eating a variety of nuts without flavors or salt added. You can add them to your salads, granola, oatmeal, and other foods if you don’t enjoy how they taste by themselves.

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