Eat right after a stroke
Eating well after a stroke is key to recovery. Choosing healthy foods can help control blood pressure, body weight, reduce a person’s risk of having another stroke, and may help with the demands of stroke therapy and other daily activities. Make sure at least half of your food comes from whole grains. Choose often nutrient-rich dark green and orange vegetables and remember to regularly eat dried beans and peas. Eat a variety of fresh, frozen or dried fruits each day. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy foods or a variety of non-dairy calcium-rich foods each day. Choose low-fat or lean meats, poultry; and remember to vary your choices with more beans, peas, nuts, seeds and fish sources. In terms of fats, make most of your fat sources from fish, nuts and vegetable oils. Limit fat sources from butter, stick margarine, shortening or lard.
Eat a variety of foods each day
Because no single food can provide our bodies with all of the nutrients we need for good health, choose a variety of foods each day. In order to reap the health-protective nutrients found in fruits and vegetables, its important to choose a variety of colorful foods at each meal. Go for a rainbow approach by choosing an array of fruits, vegetables and legumes – dark reds, oranges, vibrant yellows, deep greens, blues and purples. By choosing a rainbow of color you’ll be sure to take in a wide range of nutrients. Research shows that the best way to reap the benefits of a healthy diet is to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. So, in addition to steps 1 and 2, make sure you eat a minimum of 5 servings each day. One serving of vegetable is equal to: 1 cup raw or leafy vegetable; ½ cup cooked vegetables or 6 ounces vegetable juice. One serving of fruit is equal to: 1 medium sized (tennis ball size) piece of fruit; 1 four-inch banana; ½ cup fruit cocktail, in own juice; ½ grapefruit; 1 cup diced melon or berries; 2 Tbsp dried fruit, or 4 ounces 100% fruit juice. Limit your intake of saturated and trans fat and cholesterol.
Limit saturated/trans-fats & sodium
Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance made by your body and found in foods of animal origin. Your body needs cholesterol to maintain the health of your body’s cells. However, too much cholesterol in your blood can increase your risk of stroke and heart disease. High levels of blood cholesterol are the result of two factors: how much cholesterol your body makes, how much fat and cholesterol is in the food you eat, and the kind of fat you eat. Diets high in saturated fats are linked to high cholesterol and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Saturated fats tend to be solid at room temperature and are found in animal products like meat, cheese, egg yolks, butter, and ice cream, and some vegetable oils (palm, palm kernel and coconut). Limiting the amount of saturated fat you eat from these foods is key to stroke prevention. Diets high in trans-fats are also associated with high cholesterol and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Trans-fats are formed when an unsaturated vegetable oil is turned into a more saturated one through a process called hydrogenation. Food products that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils should be avoided. Trans-fats are found in anything made with partially hydrogenated fats (e.g., many processed foods including cookies, crackers, fried snacks and baked goods, and canned frostings). Look for foods that are labeled trans-fat free or those that use liquid vegetable oils instead of hydrogenated ones in their ingredients. Eating too much sodium may cause you to retain fluids and increase your blood pressure. Not adding salt to foods at the table is one way to cut down on your sodium, but it isn't enough. Substitute herbs and spices for table salt. Table salt is one of the largest sources of sodium in our diet. Instead of using salt, try using herbs and spices. Avoid mixed seasonings and spice blends that include salt or garlic salt. Use fewer processed and canned foods. In addition to adding flavor, sodium is also used to preserve foods. In fact, the more the food is processed, the higher its sodium content. To cut your sodium intake, limit convenience foods such as canned and instant soups or vegetables, canned meats, frozen entrees, frozen side dishes with sauce packets, instant cereal and puddings, gravy and sauce mixes, and quick cooking boxed mixes for rice, pasta and potatoes. Low-sodium canned soups may be used. Use fresh ingredients when possible and foods with no salt added. Most snack foods like potato chips, peanuts, pretzels and crackers are high in sodium. Choose low or reduced sodium versions of snack foods or eat more natural snacks like plain popcorn, vegetables or fruit. Most health professionals limit persons with high blood pressure or a history of heart disease or stroke to 1,500 milligrams each day. Talk with your doctor to determine what your sodium level should be.
Choose foods high in fiber
As part of a heart-healthy diet, fiber can reduce cholesterol and your overall risk for cardiovascular disease. Dietary fiber is the part of plants the body cannot digest. As it passes through your body it affects the way your body digests foods and absorbs nutrients. How much fiber you eat affects not only your cholesterol level and risk for stroke, but may have other health benefits: helps control blood sugar, promotes regularity, prevents gastrointestinal disease and helps in weight management. Most of us fall short of the recommended daily fiber guidelines: 38 grams for men 50 and under; 25 grams for women 50 and under; 30 grams for men over 50; 21 grams for women over 50. The best sources of dietary fiber are raw or cooked fruits and vegetables, whole-grain products, and legumes (e.g., dried beans, lentils, split peas). Refined foods like soda, fruit juice, white bread and pasta and enriched cereals are low in dietary fiber. The refining process strips the outer coat (called the bran) from the grain, lowering the fiber content. Substituting enriched, white pasta and rice and other refined foods with whole-grain varieties is a great way to boost dietary fiber intake and help to prevent blood sugar fluctuations throughout the day. This, in turn, helps keep you feeling satisfied and can help prevent sudden cravings for sweets or other quick-sugar foods later in the day. The end result: weight control.
Maintain or achieve a healthy body weight
Another important strategy to reducing your risk of a stroke is to achieve a healthy body weight. Watching your portion sizes, eating foods high in fiber and low in fat, avoiding fad diets, increasing your activity, and keeping track of your eating habits are all ways to achieve a healthy body weight. Keep in mind that weight loss does not happen overnight, so establish realistic short and long-term goals from the start.
Reduce intake of added sugar
Excess intake of added sugar is associated with hypertension, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and dyslipidemia, which are all risk factors for stroke. Examples of added sugar are white sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses, jelly, jam, and sweetened drinks.
Get enough potassium
Adequate dietary potassium intake is necessary in order to maintain proper heart function. However, most adults do not consume enough potassium. Potassium is abundant in fruit, vegetables, and milk products. Therefore, if you consume recommended amounts of these food groups, you should achieve an adequate intake of potassium. Good fruit choices include bananas, apricots, oranges, cantaloupe, and apples. High-potassium vegetables include potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, zucchini, and tomatoes.
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