Increased risk for stroke can be from both lifestyle factors as well as other chronic diseases. Hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and atherosclerosis, diabetes, and heart arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation affect your risk for stroke. Lifestyle factors like tobacco use, excessive alcohol use, and obesity are also related to an increased risk for stroke. Approximately 795,000 Americans are affected by stroke every year, leaving both disabled adults as well as death in its path. Luckily, a balanced diet can be used as both a preventative method and a recovery tool for stroke, as well as reducing risk for and complications of the other chronic diseases listed above.
Reducing your risk for stroke can be as simple working fruits and vegetables into your meals and snacks on a daily basis. Individuals who consume more than 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day are much less likely to have a stroke then those that eat less than 3 servings, as recently published in Nutrition Reviews.
It is difficult to pinpoint which mineral or vitamin is responsible for such powerful health benefits, but it has been proven that frequent consumption of fruits and vegetables as food groups have the most influence on stroke as opposed to any other food. When nutrients are isolated, such as fiber, magnesium or calcium, the scientific evidence does not show as strong of a benefit.
Fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients, which are plant derived compounds that positively impact health. Phytonutrients can be confusing since they aren’t as easily identified as a carbohydrate or a fat, but they are essential to health. One of the largest categories of phytonutrients are the flavonoids, which has thousands of types! The color, flavors, and smells of many of our fruits and vegetables are from phytonutrients, thus why eating a rainbow of colors is so nutrient dense, not to mention delicious!
Some of the more commonly known phytonutrients are resveratrol and sulforophane. Sulforophane is generally found in cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts and resveratrol is commonly associated with red wine. Memory benefits, heart health, bone density, vision, even blood cell formation, and healthy aging are all impacted by consumption of phytonutrients. See the chart below for which phytonutrients you may be consuming already!
|Color||Phytonutrients||Foods to Find|
|Red||Carotenoids & Lycopene||tomatoes, cherries, fresh cranberries, red beans, red beets|
|Orange & Yellow||Carotenoids & Lutein||yellow peppers, yellow beets, carrots, apricots, cantaloupe, yellow winter squash|
|Green||Lutein & Zeaxanthin||asparagus, avocado, green beans, kale, spinach, broccoli, zucchini, cucumber|
|Blue & Purple||Anthocyanins & Flavanoids||blueberries, plums, purple cabbage, black beans, raisins|
|White & Tan||Sulfur Compounds||onions, cauliflower, mushrooms, garlic|
Stroke Journal; American Heart Association