Nutrition diet

Nutrition: the role of diet in preventing stroke


May is the 32nd annual Stroke Awareness Month. It was created in 1989 by the American Heart Association to promote stroke awareness and reduce the overall rate of strokes in the United States.

Nutrition can play a vital role in preventing cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, and stroke. By staying informed about the risks associated with stroke and the preventative steps you can take to reduce your chances, you may discover how a few lifestyle changes can benefit you for the rest of your life!

The AHA states that the following factors may increase the chances of having a stroke:

  • Arterial hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Eat an unhealthy diet (high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol)
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity

Whether you have a pre-existing health condition or are just looking to improve your cardiovascular health, eating a healthy diet is one of the simplest modifiable stroke prevention factors you can do.

So what is the role of nutrition? By limiting your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, you can improve your lipid profile while reducing the risk of plaque buildup. Try to consume more lean meats, low-fat or skimmed dairy products, and vegetable oils such as olive, canola, and avocado oil. Poultry and fish are great lean meat options. If you choose to eat red meat, the round and loin cuts tend to be the leanest.

In addition to consuming healthier fats, lowering your daily sodium intake may also help reduce the risk of stroke by better controlling your blood pressure. Avoid using too much salt when cooking and baking; opt for sodium-free or sodium-reduced seasonings. Be aware of convenience and processed foods. These foods don’t need to be avoided entirely; however, they usually accumulate the majority of our daily sodium requirements, plus some. Look for foods that have 140 mg or less of sodium per serving and place this salt shaker in the back of the cupboard.

Finally, don’t forget your fruits and vegetables. Higher consumption of fruits and vegetables has been associated with lower stroke risks, says the AHA. Eat the Rainbow! The more colors you fill your plate with, the more nutrients you provide your body. The dietary guidelines recommend that adults consume 2 to 3 cups of fruits and vegetables per day.

There are many fun spring recipes you can find online to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your routine while improving your cardiovascular health! The following recipe is an easy way to incorporate lean meat and delicious veggies while kicking up the grill this spring and summer.

Grilled Chicken Skewers

Create your marinade. Spices such as sage, thyme, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and berry can all add a flavorful edition to chicken. If you choose to use a pre-made seasoning blend, look for salt-free or reduced sodium choices. Mix the seasonings with vegetable oil, honey and minced garlic.

Prepare the chicken. Cut the chicken breast in 1½-inch pieces. Add to the marinade, cover and place in the refrigerator. Let the marinade stand for 2 to 12 hours. The longer it marinates, the greater the taste!

Slice your vegetables or fruits! You can choose to pick up your favorite veggies or quickly improvise with what you have in the kitchen. Peppers, onions, zucchini and even pineapple; each will add beautiful color while providing essential nutrients. Distribute the vegetables or fruit evenly between the chicken pieces to prevent the vegetables from falling off the skewers.

It’s grilling time. Preheat your grill on high heat for 10 minutes. The preferred temperature is medium heat, 425-450 degrees. Place the skewers on the upper racks and grill until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees. Be sure to turn the skewers often with tongs so that each side cooks well. Enjoy!

Kaddie Levine, RD, LD, is a dietitian for St. Luke's in Duluth.

Kaddie Levine, RD, LD, is a dietitian for St. Luke’s in Duluth.

Kaddie Levine, RD, LD, is a dietitian for St. Luke’s in Duluth.


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