What are good food choices for stroke prevention?
The best diet for stroke prevention is a diet that is mostly plant-based with small amounts of meat, fish. This diet has been described as a ’Mediterranean Diet’ and there is a large body of evidence to support its benefits for cardiovascular health and stroke prevention.
You don’t have to live in Southern Europe to follow the principles of this diet, using the same principles with locally available products will achieve the same result.
Principles of a good diet
• Fruits and vegetables – 5 or more servings per day
• Oily fish, such as sardines, salmon or mackerel – at least 2 portions per week
• Healthy oils – olive oil accounts for most calorific intake in the Mediterranean diet, rapeseed/canola, sesame oil could be used
• Tree nuts and peanuts – at least 3 servings per week
• Legumes, such as peas, beans and lentils – at least three servings a week
Are there foods that I should avoid?
Excessive intake of salt, sugar and saturated fats are associated with increased risk of stroke. Salt increases your blood pressure which is the single biggest risk factor for stroke. Sugar and sugary drinks are linked to stroke, obesity and diabetes which are both risk factors for stroke, so reducing your consumption of these will help you to reduce your stroke. A recent study has found that 2 or more sugary beverages a day increase the risk of stroke.
Avoiding processed foods that are generally higher in salt, saturated fats and sugar is a simple way to avoid foods that increase your risk of stroke.
Foods to avoid
• Red and processed meat high in saturated fat and sodium
• Alcohol – if you are used to drinking alcohol, stick to recommended levels of no more than 1 units of alcohol for women and 2 for men (1 unit of alcohol is equivalent to 40 ml of 40% proof spirits, 80 ml of fortified wine or sherry, 140 ml of table wine or 340 ml of regular beer), drinking even less than that amount is beneficial for your health; if you are not used to drinking alcohol, try do not drink it all
• Sweets, sweetened drinks and foods – sugar can be hidden in lots of foods and drinks, so look at labels
• Added fats – avoid trans-fats, found in cakes and pastries
• Full-fat dairy – try to switch to low-fat varieties
1 in 4 people are at risk of stroke in their lifetime, but by taking simple steps almost all strokes can be prevented