What to Eat and Avoid After a Stroke

What to Eat and Avoid After a Stroke


After having a stroke, diet is an important part of recovering and preventing another one. Eating healthy foods can help manage risk factors for stroke such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes. Along with knowing the proper foods to eat and avoid, it can be helpful to learn how to read food labels, meal prep, and consult with a dietician.

Foods to Avoid

Processed foods – processed foods have lots of fats, starches, sugars and hydrogenated oils, and raise your cholesterol, your blood pressure and your stroke risk. 

This includes foods like:

  • Processed meats like hot dogs, salami, pepperoni and bologna.
  • Refined carbs like white breads, crackers, salty snack foods and baked goods.
  • Sugary foods and drinks, such as desserts, candy and soda. 
  • Fried foods, such as mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, popcorn shrimp, etc.
  • Fast foods and convenience foods, like canned soup, frozen dinners.

Food high in salt

Eating too much sodium can cause you to retain fluids, which increases your blood pressure and is a risk factor for stroke. A low-sodium diet is one with less than 2,400 milligrams of sodium a day, but the average American consumes about twice as much sodium as they should. Processed foods are also high in sodium, which is used as a preservative. There are also lots of hidden forms of salt in things like salad dressings, soy sauce, and seasonings. An alternative can be to try other herbs and salt free spices to your food.

Getting better. Senior man looks more healthy and jolly while drinking tea made by his granddaughter.

Foods to Eat

Whole foods

Whole foods are foods that are found in nature and not processed. Try to incorporate these foods into your snacks and meals.

This includes:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Poultry
  • Lean protein
  • Fish
  • Whole grains (like oats, barley, brown or wild rice)
  • Legumes (like beans and peas)
  • Nuts and seeds

High fiber foods

Fiber can help reduce your cholesterol and your overall risk for cardiovascular disease. Soluble fiber binds to the bile in your gut, which helps eliminate it. Bile is made of cholesterol, so a diet high in soluble fiber can lower cholesterol. Soluble fiber is found in foods like oats, legumes, root vegetables, apples, pears, citrus fruits, chia, flaxseeds and psyllium husk.

Summary:

  • Eat for recovery and prevention: Healthy diet manages stroke risk factors like blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and diabetes.
  • Avoid processed foods: They’re high in fats, starches, sugars, and unhealthy oils, increasing stroke risks. Examples: processed meats, refined carbs, sugary drinks, fried foods, and convenience meals.
  • Go low-sodium: Sodium intake should be under 2,400mg daily. Limit processed foods (high in hidden sodium) and find other flavorings (herbs, spices).
  • Embrace whole foods: Prioritize fruits, vegetables, poultry, lean protein, fish, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
  • Boost your fiber: Soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol and overall cardiovascular risk. Good sources: oats, legumes, root vegetables, apples, pears, citrus fruits, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and psyllium husk.
  • Learn food labels: Understand sodium and fiber content in packaged foods.
  • Meal prep and seek help: Consider meal planning and consulting a dietitian for personalized guidance.

This article reviewed by Dr. Jim Liu, MD and Ms. Deb Dooley, APRN.

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