When recovering from a stroke it is important to consider your diet. Eating well and following a healthy diet not only can help your recovery but can also help prevent a further stroke.
Having a stroke can affect your normal eating habits and you may have to adapt your diet to cope with these changes.
How can a healthy diet reduce the risk of stroke?
The most common type of stroke occurs when a blood clot obstructs the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. Having a high-fat diet can increase your risk of fatty deposits - called plaques - clogging your arteries and leading to a blood clot. Being overweight or obese, or having high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol levels or diabetes, also increases your risk of stroke. A dietitian can help you improve your diet to better manage these conditions.
By choosing healthy foods and avoiding unhealthy ones, you can reduce your risk of having another stroke. A diet that is low in fat, salt and sugar and high in fibre with plenty of fruits, vegetables and wholegrains is generally recommended. Heavy drinkers will also be advised to cut back on alcohol.
Vitamins, minerals and fibre
Fruit and vegetables provide important vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Among these are vitamins A, C and E and beta-carotene, which are antioxidants that can help prevent damage to your arteries. Vegetables that have high levels of antioxidants include green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and spinach, as well as cauliflower. Citrus fruits and juices are also a good source of antioxidants.
Potassium, a type of mineral, can help prevent high blood pressure. Good sources of potassium include potatoes, spinach and bananas.
Wholegrains and pulses are an important source of fibre, which can help reduce your levels of cholesterol. In particular, oats are known to help reduce cholesterol.
Proteins, fats and cholesterol
Your body needs some protein every day, which can be found in meat, fish, beans and pulses, eggs, dairy products and some nuts and seeds. However, some sources of protein are also sources of fat – and while some fat is good, fat is often bad. Too much of the 'bad fats' such as saturated fats and trans fats can raise your cholesterol levels and increase your risk of stroke. These 'bad' fats can lead to fatty plaque deposits on arteries. They can also increase your body weight.
Saturated fats are mostly found in meat and full fat dairy products as well as palm oil, coconut oil and coconut cream. Trans fats can be found in partially processed (hydrogenated) liquid oils used in processed foods. Many people in the UK eat too much saturated fat, but hydrogenated vegetable oil has been removed from most supermarkets' own-brand products decreasing the amount people eat and helping to improve health.