For those concerned about stroke, it may be all about the fiber. Eight cohort studies recently reported in the Journal Stroke a strong and substantial link between a high fiber diet and the diminishment of first strokes, including both hemorrhagic and ischemic events. The studies indicated that a seven-gram increase in daily fiber consumption decreased stroke risk by around seven percent. The current recommended level of fiber for women is 21 to 25 grams daily and for men, 30 to 38 grams.
Not all fiber is created equal. Soluble fiber was found to be the most effective in diminishing first stroke risk, although insoluble fiber and cereal fiber also had a positive effect. High-fiber foods can be delicious and satisfying. A number to fold into your diet include:
- Beans, especially black beans, kidney beans and navy beans – These protein-packers are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber.
- Lentils – This health-enhancing superstar contains high amounts of both types of fiber and has been linked to a wide variety of health benefits including enhanced digestion.
- Steel-cut oatmeal – The fiber content between rolled and steel-cut oats is very similar, but steel-cut oatmeal carries a lower glycemic load, making it a healthier choice, particularly for those with diabetes risk.
- Citrus fruit – Fruits like oranges and grapefruits are high in soluble fiber and vitamin C, an antioxidant.
- Apples – Flavonoids, antioxidants and fiber make all apple varieties positively impactful on health. Benefits may include thrombotic stroke risk and cancer risk reduction. A Cornell University study also indicated that apples might reduce rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in some patients.
- Brussels Sprouts – A cruciferous vegetable, Brussels sprouts are chock full of fiber and a whole host of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. A health powerhouse, this delicious veggie is linked to lowered risk for certain types of cancer as well as stroke.
- Sweet potato – This naturally sweet vegetable was chosen as the number one nutritious vegetable by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. A high source of fiber, sweet potatoes are often the co-stars of the holiday table. Consider baking and serving these delectable beauties with their skins scrubbed clean and intact this year, instead of adding sugar.
- Asparagus – A springtime favorite, asparagus’ gentle flavor packs a nutritional, low-calorie wallop. Filled with high levels of fiber, folate and an alphabet soup’s worth of vitamins, asparagus has been linked to slowing down the aging process because it is so high in antioxidants. Make sure to eat this yummy treat within a day or two of purchase. Asparagus’ health benefits may diminish quickly, even if stored in the fridge.
- Flaxseed – Ground flaxseeds can be added to a host of recipes, from turkey meatloaf to pancakes, boosting the health benefit levels of a wide variety of foods. A plant food, flaxseed has been strongly linked to the diminishment of risk for stroke, breast cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Flaxseeds contain high amounts of both soluble and insoluble fiber, Omega-3 essential fatty acids and lignans. Nutritionists suggest reaching for ground instead of whole flaxseeds because they are easier to digest.
- Blackberries – A summer treat with a short shelf life, blackberries are a high source of insoluble fiber and pectin, a type of soluble fiber, as well as bioflavonoids and vitamin C.
Of course, it’s not only what you eat but also what you don’t eat that counts. Diabetes, obesity and heart disease are all strong indicators for high risk for stroke. Avoiding sugar and fattening, empty-calorie foods are also positive dietary changes those concerned about stroke risk should make.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.