30 Sep What Foods Are Good for Stroke Recovery?
What you eat has a significant effect on how healthy your brain is. This is especially true for those recovering from a stroke.
Knowing what foods are the best to add to a diet, as well as what foods and drinks to avoid, will help you create a brain-healthy diet.
Importance of a Healthy Diet for Stroke Recovery
Foods that are good for stroke recovery are ones that promote brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that supports the growth of new brain cells and encourages more neural connections inside the brain. The brain depends on these two functions for neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to rewire and rebuild itself after an injury (such as a stroke).1
Foods that help the brain produce more BDNF enhance the effects of neuroplasticity, which in turn may help boost recovery for stroke patients.
Best Foods for Stroke Recovery
Along with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, we’ve put together a list of some of the best foods for stroke recovery, according to clinical research.
Rich in an omega-3 fatty acid called EPA that aids in neuroplasticity, salmon and other types of fish can help maintain and increase levels of BDNF.2
A 2015 study revealed that alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in flaxseeds, boosts BDNF and neuroplasticity. Since our bodies do not produce ALA on their own, it’s crucial for stroke patients to ingest an adequate amount of ALA to support recovery.3
Nuts & Seeds
As great sources of vitamin E, nuts and seeds can help lower the risk of age-related cognitive decline. Nuts and seeds also have lots of antioxidants, which is beneficial for stroke recovery.4
Our brains need oleic acid to process information at optimal speeds, making avocados (which are high in both oleic acid and antioxidants) a must-have for a stroke recovery diet.
According to some studies, plant-based foods seem to lower the risk of stroke.5 Quinoa is a fiber-rich grain that contains all necessary amino acids to form complete proteins our bodies need to repair and make cells.6
This food is a great source of protein, calcium, and probiotics, which promotes gut health and may help reduce risk of having another stroke.7 Yogurt is also an easier, softer food option for stroke survivors who may struggle with chewing and swallowing.
Legumes are high in potassium, iron, and protein. In particular, beans are rich in magnesium, a mineral that protects the neurons in the brain.8
What to Avoid for Stroke Patients
As you can see, there are many delicious foods that contribute to greater brain health. However, stroke patients should be aware that some foods and minerals may encourage high blood pressure.
Here are the things to watch out for when creating a stroke recovery diet:
- Ingesting too much salt (sodium) raises your blood pressure levels and increases your risk of stroke. Adults should not consume more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
- Excessive amounts of sugar can damage blood vessels, increasing the risk of stroke. Eating too much sugar can also lead to weight gain, another stroke risk factor.
- Alcohol contributes to high blood pressure, making it a drink that stroke survivors should limit or completely avoid, if possible.
- Saturated fats. According to some studies, high levels of saturated fats can reduce BDNF and neuroplasticity.9 For stroke patients, this means that saturated fats may slow down or inhibit full recovery. These fats are usually found in fried foods and red meat; if possible, find healthier alternatives such as fish and nuts.
Best Diets for Stroke Recovery
While we cover two of the most recommended diets for stroke recovery and overall brain health, it’s important to create a diet that fits your unique needs. We recommend speaking with your doctor or dietitian before starting on any specific diet.
Known as a heart-healthy diet, the Mediterranean diet is also beneficial to stroke survivors. This diet focuses on plant-based dishes such as lentils and whole grains, healthy fats such as olive oil, and allows for only a low amount of red meat and sweets.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet focuses on making sure you receive all the nutrients you need while keeping your daily intake of sodium low so that your blood pressure remains optimal.
A Cookbook for Stroke Patients
The American Stroke Foundation has provided a cookbook for stroke survivors and their families to enjoy, explaining the ideal brain-healthy diet in detail and sharing multiple recipes for how to create delicious meals that feed and heal our brains.
Stroke Recovery Care in Spokane
A brain-healthy diet is just one of the steps in a full stroke-recovery program.
Care To Stay Home is here to help you or your loved one recover from a recent stroke and return to a thriving, healthy life.
We know that post-stroke treatment and care is important—that’s why we provide compassionate and professional care to all of our patients. Visit our Stroke Recovery Care page to learn more about how we can help.