Nutritious diet can help prevent a stroke

Benton-Franklin Community Health AllianceApril 14, 2014 

In 2010, strokes caused 1 of 19 deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On average, someone dies of a stroke every four minutes.

Strokes are one of the most common forms of cardiovascular disease, occurring when there is an interruption of the blood supply to the brain, with resulting loss of muscle function, vision, sensation or speech that leads to brain injury.

But up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented. To decrease your risk of stroke, eat nutritious foods, maintain a healthy weight, exercise, don't smoke and avoid second-hand smoke.

Poor diet is as big a contributor to cardiovascular disease as smoking. Eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day is associated with a 26 percent lower rate of stroke. Consuming three portions of whole grains per day may decrease the incidence of stroke by 25 percent.

The American Heart Association recommends the following to avoid stroke and heart disease:

Eat at least:

-- Vegetables: 2 1/2 cups per day

-- Fruit: 2 servings per day

-- Whole Grains (not multigrains): 3 servings per day

-- Fiber: 28 grams per day

-- Nuts, legumes and seeds: 4 servings per week

-- Omega-3 fatty acids: 250 milligrams per day from fatty fish, seeds or nuts

Consume no more than:

-- Processed meats: 2 servings per week

-- Saturated fats: 10 percent of total calories

-- Cholesterol: 300 milligrams per day (200 milligrams if suffering from high blood pressure or heart disease)

-- Salt: 2,300 milligrams per day

-- Sweets and bakery desserts: 2 1/2 servings per week on average

-- Alcohol: 5 drinks per week for adult females, 10 for males

For those suffering their first stroke, 77 percent have hypertension or blood pressure higher than 140/90. Having diabetes is another stroke risk factor, as is having cholesterol over 200 mg/dL. It is important to be under a physician's care for all these health issues, while also addressing the factors you can control.

For example, check the list of ingredients on the label before buying anything at the grocery store. You may be surprised to learn how much salt some prepared foods contain.

Even reduced-sodium broths are salty. Substitute water and add extra herbs to a recipe instead. Sun-dried tomatoes without added salt, vinegars and lemon and lime juices are all good salt substitutes.

You don't have to eat a meal high in fat and salt for it to taste good.

The following recipe proves this point, and it also provides a serving of whole grains.

Asian Quinoa Salad

Servings: 4. Preparation time: 30 minutes plus time for quinoa to cool.

1 cup dry quinoa
1 diced red bell pepper
1/3 cup diced green or red onion
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 15 oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed well and drained
1/4 cup almond, sunflower or peanut butter, non-hydrogenated, with no added salt or sugar
1/4 c water
1 tbsp rice or cider vinegar
1 tbsp minced ginger or 1 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
2 cloves garlic, pressed
juice and zest from 1 lime

Cook quinoa according to package directions. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool.

Chop the pepper, onions and cilantro.

In a small bowl, whisk together the nut butter and all remaining ingredients.

Place cooled quinoa, vegetables and beans in a large bowl and mix gently. Pour in the dressing and stir to combine.

Serve cold or at room temperature.

Options: add 1 cup diced red cabbage,1 cup grated carrot and other colorful vegetables.

Or try the dressing on chopped cabbage, chopped red pepper, grated carrot, and chopped cilantro.

Nutrition Facts: 378 calories, 12 grams fat (1/4 gram saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 97 mg sodium, 644 mg potassium, 55 grams carbohydrate, 10 grams fiber, 8 grams sugars, 15 grams protein.

-- The Benton-Franklin Community Health Alliance's monthly food column discusses how to reduce the risk or severity of health problems by eating better. More information at

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