Food for Thought
Reduce your risk of stroke
Stroke affects millions of men and women around the world, and can lead to disability and death. The number one risk factor is high blood pressure. Others are smoking and high levels of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol. People with diabetes are at greater risk of stroke. In fact, overall, the health risk of cardiovascular disease (including stroke) is about two-and-a-half times higher in men and women with diabetes.
‘Living a healthy lifestyle makes a real difference to reducing your risk,’ says dietitian Nicole Senior. ‘The right diet can not only lower your LDL cholesterol, but it is also effective in lowering your blood pressure, controlling your blood glucose levels and managing your body weight. Of course you need to make sure you are active every day and if you smoke cigarettes you know you need to quit.’
10 tips to eat to beat stroke
- Get your fats right – out with the vessel-clogging saturated fats in butter, cream, cheese, fatty meats and sweet treats such as pastries, cakes and cookies, and in with the good polyunsaturated fats in sunflower oil and margarine, soy bean oil and walnuts. Monounsaturated fats such as olive, canola and peanut oil are also good for replacing saturated fats. Choose trans-free brands.
- Obtain omega 3 fats – you’ve heard that fish is brain food and it is in more ways than one. It not only helps your brain-computer process at top speed, it also prevents ‘fatal errors’ such as ischemic stroke. Your target is fish at least twice a week.
- Aim for five serves of vegetables a day – and make sure you eat your greens and keep your mind sharp. Green vegetables contain brain-boosting folate which helps reduce age-related cognitive decline as well as maintaining healthy blood vessels.
- Enjoy two fruits each day – variety is the spice, so eat fresh what’s in season and choose different colours and types for all the phytochemical protection your brain needs.
- Include 2 serves or more of low-fat dairy foods – low fat milk and yoghurt have all the essential nutrients without the bad fats and are essential components of the blood-pressure beating DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).
- Lean towards legumes – such as chick peas, lentils, kidney beans and soy beans. Include these highly nutritious and versatile foods into two meals a week for their cholesterol-beating plant protein and soluble fibre
- Go grains! – ensure at least half your grains foods are whole kernel grains for the extra nutrients and fibre they contain, such as wholegrain breads, crispbreads and breakfast cereals, brown rice and wholemeal pasta
- Select smart carbs – choose lower GI foods at each meal, such as oats, muesli, orchard fruits, mixed grain breads, pasta, legumes, and low fat milk and yoghurt.
- Go nuts – these super-food snacks are perfect for settling hunger between meals. A small handful most days is the ideal amount.
- Fill up on fibre – ensure most of what you eat is minimally processed plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes and nuts and you’ll score high on the fibre-meter. Remember that oats, barley, lentils and fruits contain soluble fibre to beat cholesterol.
– Nicole Senior is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and author of Eat to Beat Cholesterol (with Veronica Cuskelly).