It is said that we fear most that which we can’t control. Strokes tend to be random and unpredictable and this can heighten unnecessary anxieties about aging. That is, until now! Recent studies have shown that increased aerobic activity and a healthy diet can indeed lower your risk for a stroke. But be cautious about your diet, because some foods that may seem harmless on the outside can actually raise the probability of a stroke. In addition to your healthy lifestyle, you can decrease your chances of a stroke by avoiding these five foods, specifically.

Crackers, chips, and store-bought pastries and baked goods

Many processed foods are loaded with trans fats, found in hydrogenated oils, in order to prolong their shelf time. In a recent study, scientists compared a group of women who ate seven grams of trans fat per day versus a group who only consumed one gram. The women who ate an equivalent of two and a half pastries had 30% more strokes. Trans fats have been proven to block blood flow to the brain, promote inflammation, and increase levels of C-reactive protein, increasing the possibility of a stroke. Make sure to also be aware of hydrogenated oils hidden in French fries, frozen foods, processed snacks, microwave popcorn, cake mixes, store-bought whipped cream, and even salad dressings. Read your labels!

Smoked and processed meats

We all know that excessive sodium is harmful to our bodies. However, biting into a turkey or roast beef sandwich carries more than just high concentrations of salt. Sodium nitrate and nitrite help preserve processed meats, but they also can damage you blood vessels resulting in hardened, narrowed arteries. Try to limit yourself to one serving of smoked or processed
meats per week and instead try filling your sandwich with tuna salad made with olive oil or hummus, roasted turkey breast with pesto, peanut butter and berries, or seasoned tofu.

Diet soda

Trade in zero-calorie soft-drinks for coconut water, carbonated kombucha tea, or aloe juice. You can still quench your thirst for
minimal calories without increasing your chance of stroke by 48%! Further studies are in the process to find out exactly what ingredient in diet sodas makes them so hazardous to our health. But research has already shown that daily diet soda drinkers had 60% more strokes, heart attacks, and coronary diseases than those who avoided the fizzy drink.

Red meat

Red meat’s high saturated fat content and its negative effects on our health is no new news. However, its high iron content is now in question. In a recent Swedish study, women who regularly consumed red meat were 50% more likely to have a stroke or develop heart disease. Hemoglobin, responsible for red meat’s high amount of iron, can thicken your blood and
increase your chance of strokes. Try substituting tuna or veggie burgers for ground beef ones, barbeque halibut, chicken or salmon, and get your protein fill also from eggs, nuts, beans, and nonfat dairy!

Canned soup and prepared foods

Your daily intake of sodium should not exceed 1,500 mg per day. One can of chicken noodle soup has over 1,100 mg! Excessive sodium intake raises blood pressure, which is one of the main contributors to a stroke. Your chances of having a stroke are doubled if you do not stay within a reasonable amount of the recommended daily dose.  Make sure to check food labels for sodium content and limit the amount of baking soda, baking powder, monosodium glutamate (MSG), disodium phosphate, and sodium alginate in your diet. Try making your own frozen, ready to eat meals. Prepare extra amounts of your fresh
meals and freeze individual sized portions to have ready when you don’t have the time or energy to cook.

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-Emily Freeman


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