There are two approaches to diet most people use when figuring out how to reduce their stroke risk: focusing on what foods to eliminate and figuring out which ones to eat in abundance. Many probably go with the former. Since the condition is responsible for one out of every 20 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s no wonder avoidance is so appealing. Though this is a completely normal way to go about building a better diet, it can soon leave you feeling as though there’s hardly anything you can eat.
You’ll see some pretty expected choices, but others might surprise you. The next time you stock up on groceries, make sure these foods are on your list.
Tomatoes are among the best foods you can eat for your heart, which also means a reduced risk of stroke. Various health professionals have touted the importance of lycopene — which is abundant in the red fruit — for years and it continues to prove beneficial. According to a 2012 study involving more than 1,000 men, those with the highest levels of lycopene in their systems from consuming tomato products had a 55% reduced risk of stroke.
You don’t have to eat raw tomatoes to reap the benefits, either. Some evidence suggests your body better absorbs the lycopene when you cook the produce. Consider this a reason to opt for tomato sauce whenever you have pasta.
2. Whole grains
Limiting the amount of refined grains you eat won’t cause any harm, but you don’t want to cut out carbs entirely. Whole grains are filled with vital nutrients, especially fiber. The American Stroke Association recommends eating plenty of these fiber-rich grains to help lower your cholesterol, which reduces your risk for stroke. Try barley, brown rice, farro, or buckwheat.
3. Beans and legumes
We all know protein is important for building muscle, aiding recovery, and keeping us full, but it’s easy to find ourselves relying only on animal products to get enough. If you really want to cut your odds of having a stroke, plant-based sources like beans, lentils, and peas are a better option. Research published in the American Journal of Hypertension, which involved 554 participants, found legume consumption significantly lowered blood pressure.
Similar results have been found for studies examining an overall diet rather than a specific food. One of the most recent examples was published in the journal Stroke. The researchers discovered that individuals following the dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) diet, which emphasizes consuming nuts and legumes instead of animal protein, were less likely to experience a stroke.
In a seriously surprising twist, eggs have turned out to be associated with a reduced risk of stroke despite years of worry the food could lead to heart troubles. According to a recent meta-analysis, eating one egg per day may reduce the risk of stroke by as much as 12%. This research involves whole egg consumption, too, meaning there’s no need to fear the yolk. So go ahead and scramble, poach, and sauté to your heart’s content.
5. Red wine
While no doctor is going to prescribe binge drinking as a path to better health, some think moderate alcohol consumption can be beneficial. This is especially true for cutting the odds of having a stroke. Harvard Health Publications suggests opting for one serving of an alcoholic beverage per day to see these benefits, recommending red wine for its antioxidants. Just stick with one standard portion. More alcohol doesn’t equate to more benefits.
6. Citrus fruits
Even if you can’t eliminate the possibility of getting a cold by eating plenty of oranges, the fruit may be able to ward off strokes and other heart problems. This goes for all citrus, too. One 2012 study examined the link between stroke and consumption of a class of antioxidant known as flavanoids. The most interesting thing about this research is, while total flavanoid consumption didn’t seem to show any correlation, those who consumed high levels of a particular type of flavanoid, mainly through citrus fruits and juices, had a lower risk of stroke.
7. Leafy greens
Mom really did know best when she tried to get you to eat your greens as a child. In addition to providing tons of vitamins and minerals, these veggies are great for reducing the risk of developing numerous diseases. One review that highlighted the importance of eating fruits and vegetables as a way to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease singled out leafy greens as particularly beneficial. It turns out kale really is a superfood.
These starchy fruits often get shunned for having a lot of carbohydrates, including sugar, but they definitely deserve a place on your plate. For starters, fruits are a much healthier way to tame your sweet tooth than eating a bunch of cookies or candy. Bananas also boast a huge dose of potassium, which gives them a real advantage. According to a 2014 study, high potassium consumption can reduce the risk of stroke.
If you don’t mind a slightly green banana, you can score even more benefits. Because underripe bananas don’t contain as much sugar, they’re higher in resistant starch and pectin. Authority Nutrition explains these types of fiber can help you feel full faster, which may help you drop a few unwanted pounds.
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