5 Diet Tips for Stroke Recovery

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Brush up on your nutritional knowledge.

During the recovery period following a stroke, dietary habits can make an enormous difference to your health. While it’s important to know what foods you should eat, it’s equally important to know what foods you shouldn’t be eating. A stroke occurs when a blood clot cuts off blood flow to the brain. Thus, eating to keep the veins healthy helps keep the blood vessels in the brain from an excessive buildup of cholesterol and other substances that may inhibit blood flow. While you don't need a degree in nutrition to create a post-stroke diet like this, a little knowledge of what to eat and avoid is key. 

One of the most important aspects of creating meals to help your body recover from a stroke is to eat a variety of foods. Fruits and vegetables are particularly important, so a medley of these should be one of the first things you attempt to introduce into your diet. Experts recommend having at least five cups of the two combined. This doesn’t mean you can live off of bananas and strawberries, however. Fruits are typically higher-calorie than most vegetables, and regular overeating can lead to obesity—which puts you at risk for another stroke.  

 

Other foods the American Stroke Association recommends for a recovery diet include bi-weekly servings of fish (which promote brain health), lean meats, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, and plenty of fiber. 

Conversely, there are other foods you’re going to want to avoid. While these foods are the typical "villains" of most diets, it's especially important to abstain from these after a stroke if you want your body and brain to recover as much as possible. Foods that should be moderated include anything with high amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, added sugar, and alcohol. Try substituting various herbs (many of which may have beneficial effects on the body) in place of salt and opting for low-fat versions of products, when possible. 

Did you know...

  • A hearty laugh is good for the heart. Laughing can increase blood flow by 20%. Additionally, looking on the bright side can help you live longer. Studies have shown that a more optimistic outlook is linked to a healthier heart, lower blood pressure, and a lower risk for coronary artery disease.
  • Does your job make you stressed? We all know that stress is psychologically bad for you, but it also has an effect on…your allergies? A Harvard Medical School study has shown that stress causes your allergies to become worse because your body's defense response loses efficacy when repeatedly triggered by stress. Then, when you really need to physically fight something off, you're less able to!
  • Starting to feel claustrophobic? The smells of apples may help keep your claustrophobic feelings at bay according to a 1995 study by Dr. Alan Hirsch. Green apples, specifically, helped people change their perception of their space. Maybe they thought of expansive apple orchards? Cucumbers and barbecue made the feelings worse.
  • There are many factors that contribute to your body odor, but one of the strongest links is our diet. This may be some bad news for meat-lovers because many studies have shown that those who refrained from or ate less red meat were judged as being more pleasant smelling. The meat sweats are real, and they don’t smell great!
  • Just saying the words "thank you" can measurably improve your mood. Researchers can actually measure happiness and changes in brain structure when people practiced regular "grateful thinking." This included things like writing thank you notes, writing gratitude journal entries, mindfully counting their blessings, and thanking friends. It may be helpful in overcoming depression!