May is the 32nd annual Stroke Awareness Month. It was established in 1989 by the American Heart Association to promote stroke awareness and reduce the overall stroke rate 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 strokes. By staying informed about the risks associated with stroke and the preventive measures you can take to reduce your chances, you may find that a few lifestyle changes can benefit you for a lifetime!
The AHA states that the following factors can increase the chances of having a stroke:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- heart disease
- Consuming an unhealthy diet (high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol)
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Physical inactivity
Whether you have a pre-existing medical condition or are simply looking to improve your cardiovascular health, eating a healthy diet is one of the easiest modifiable stroke prevention factors to do.
So what is the role of nutrition? By limiting your intake of saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol, you can improve your lipid profile while reducing the risk of plaque buildup. Try to consume more lean meats, reduced or fat-free 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, 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 controlling your blood pressure better. Avoid using too much salt when cooking and baking; opt for sodium-free or reduced-sodium seasonings. Be aware of convenience and processed foods. These foods do not need to be completely avoided; However, they generally accumulate the majority of our daily sodium needs, plus some. Look for foods that contain 140 mg or less of sodium per serving and place that 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 risks of stroke, according to the AHA. Eat the Rainbow! The more colors you fill your plate with, the more nutrients you offer your body. The Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults consume 2-3 cups of fruits and vegetables per day.
There are plenty of 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 vegetables while firing up the grill this spring and summer.
Create your marinade. Spices such as sage, thyme, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and bay leaf can all add a savory edition to the chicken. If you choose to use a premade seasoning mix, look for salt-free or reduced-sodium choices. Mix the seasonings with a vegetable oil, honey and minced garlic.
Prepare the chicken. Cut the chicken breast into 1 ½ 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 tastier it is!
Slice your vegetables – or your fruits! You can choose to pick your favorite vegetables or quickly improvise with what you have in the kitchen. From peppers, onions, zucchini and even pineapple; each will add beautiful color while providing essential nutrients. Divide the vegetables or fruit evenly between the chicken pieces to prevent the vegetables from falling off the skewers.
It’s grill time. Preheat your grill on high 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 rotate the skewers often with tongs so that each side cooks well. Enjoy!
Kaddie Levine, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian for St. Luke’s in Duluth.