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Foods That Help Prevent Stroke

Contributor Sasha Bayat, RD, LDN
7 minute read
Two men sharing a moment as they stir a pot on the stove.

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 8 in 10 strokes are preventable. Lifestyle changes, especially nutrition, have the power to greatly reduce your risk of stroke and other health problems.

“Improvements to your lifestyle can lower your risk of stroke and it’s never too late to make changes,” says Sasha Bayat, RD, LDN, a Mass General Brigham dietitian and a member of the Nutrition and Wellness Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Incorporating certain foods into your diet can help reduce the factors that contribute to stroke, such as high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, and high cholesterol.”

She adds, “Making small, gradual changes to the foods you eat, rather than completely changing your diet overnight, can be a helpful way to make long-lasting changes that are tailored towards your personal lifestyle and dietary preferences.” Bayat emphasizes a healthy eating pattern can help reduce risk of stroke.

“When it comes to making diet and lifestyle changes, it’s important to be kind and compassionate with yourself. It doesn’t have to be an overhaul. Just the simple addition of some fruits and vegetables into your day or making one change at a time can make a difference,” she says.

Mediterranean diet

Bayat says the Mediterranean diet is a healthy lifestyle approach  linked to reducing risk of stroke. It’s based on traditional foods in the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, including Greece, North Africa, Turkey, and Italy. It’s largely composed of:

  • Fruits
  • Healthy fats, such as such as fatty fish or seafood, nuts, seeds, avocado, and extra-virgin olive oil
  • Beans and other legumes
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains such as farro, spelt, barley, and millet

“Nuts and olive oil are examples of healthful fats that you can easily sneak into your day. Studies show that even small amounts of nuts, avocado, or olive oil as part of a plant-based healthy meal pattern can support lower cardiac risk.”

She recommends 1 ounce of nuts per day. This can help reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and support overall vascular health. Nuts are also a source of unsaturated fats, which can lower low-density lipoproteins (LDL, sometimes referred to as “bad cholesterol”) when used in place of saturated fats and refined carbohydrates.

Herbs and spices

Various herbs and spices as part of a healthy diet have been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk. Oregano, rosemary, thyme, chives, and basil are herbs you can use in cooking for these health benefits. Cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger are just a few examples of world cuisine spices that are likely already in your spice rack. Start enjoying them to add flavor and variety to your recipes.  

Soluble fiber

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and other body fluids. It helps increase healthy gut bacteria in the body. 

“Oatmeal is a good option,” Bayat says. “It is high in fiber, and contains something called beta-glucan, which has been researched to help slow digestion and increase satiety. Beta-glucan is a type of soluble fiber that can help lower cholesterol. Other foods rich in soluble fiber include chickpeas, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, apples, yams, and carrots.


Potassium is a mineral that can help lower blood pressure. Foods high in potassium include bananas, beans, avocado, kiwi, mango, cantaloupe, and sweet potatoes. 

Limit salt and sugar to reduce stoke risk.

Limiting salt and sugar is a key step in reducing stroke risk. 

Limit salt and sugar in found in processed, packaged, and canned foods.

Most people should eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. People in high-risk groups should eat even lower amounts of 1,500 milligrams daily. People at high risk of stroke include African-Americans and people with diabetes. Most sodium in the diet is not added at the table. It comes from processed, packaged, and canned foods, and in restaurant meals.

As for sugar, Bayat notes guidelines from the American Heart Association are to limit added sugars to no more than 24 grams (6 teaspoons) daily for women and no more than 32 grams (9 teaspoons) daily for men. Excessive added sugars and sugary drinks are associated with inflammatory conditions like cardiometabolic disease.

Gradually reduce the amount of added sugar and salt in your meals. Over time, your tastebuds will adjust. Learn how to control blood sugar with diet

Tips for healthy eating and stroke prevention

It can be hard to change your diet. Bayat offers a few tips:

  • Try a new fruit each week.
  • Replace chips with a handful of nuts as a daily snack. Instead of butter on toast, spread avocado or a nut butter.
  • Sneak a variety of chopped veggies into soups, stews, chilis, and casseroles.
Sasha Bayat, RD, LDN


Sasha Bayat, RD, LDN