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Diet, Nutrition, and Stroke Prevention

Diet Nutrition and Stroke Prevention  

Eating a healthy, balanced diet helps decrease the risk of future strokes.  A healthy diet helps you control your weight, control your blood pressure, and lower your cholesterol & triglycerides (Fats found in the blood).  Follow these steps to help decrease your risk of having a stroke:


Limit total intake of fat to 25-35% of calories.  55-75 grams of fat each day.  Most of the fat in your diet should come from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (good fats).  These fats help lower your cholesterol.  Found in:

  • Corn oil
  • Canola oil
  • Olive oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Nuts
  • Avocados
  • Salmon
  • Albacore tuna
  • Flaxseed


Limit saturated fat to less than 7% of calories.  Less than 15 grams each day.  Saturated (bad fat) increases bad (LDL) levels of cholesterol. Foods high in this fat include:

  • All animal fats (chicken skin, beef, dark meat)
  • Egg yolks
  • Whole milk dairy products
  • Palm oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Socoa butter
  • Shortening
  • Butter
  • Prepackaged snacks (cakes, cookies, crackers, chips)
  • Homemade treats


Avoid Trans fat.  Trans fat increases bad (LDL) cholesterol and decreases good (HDL) cholesterol.  If a fat is solid at room temperature, it is high in trans-fat:

  • Butter
  • Crisco
  • Margarine
  • Shortening
  • Fried foods 


Limit sodium intake to 2000 to 3000 mg each day.  Limiting sodium helps manage blood pressure.  Remove the salt shaker.  One teaspoon of salt has 2300mg of sodium, a whole day’s worth.  Most foods contain sodium naturally, so adding salt to food will easily give you more than 2000-3000 mg a day.  Foods high in sodium include:

  • Chips
  • Crackers
  • Pretzels
  • Canned vegetables
  • Processed cheese
  • Smoked/cured/salted meats
  • Fast food
  • Deli meat
  • Sausage
  • Bacon
  • Soups
  • Vegetable juice
  • Marinades
  • Condiments. 

Prepare food yourself using herbs and spices to flavor food.   Choose foods low in sodium or unsalted foods.  Choose products with less than 140 mg of sodium per serving.  If serving is an entire meal, limit to 600mg sodium.


Choose more whole grains. Whole grains contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber that help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.  Choose whole grain breads, crackers, pasta, rice, cereals, and wraps.  Read ingredient label and look for “whole wheat”.  Choose bread with 3 grams or more of fiber in each slice.  Some whole grains also contain soluble fiber (oats, barley, rye), which lower your cholesterol. 

Balance calories in with calories out to maintain a healthy weight.  Your metabolic rate is your body burning calories through normal body processes such as breathing, digestion, controlling body temperature and keeping your heart beating.  You also burn calories through physical activity.  Climb the stairs, cook, mow the lawn, or laugh.  The amount of calories burned depends on:

  • Time spent on the activity
  • Effort put into the activity
  • Body weight
  • Amount of muscles, age, and whether you are male or female.


Get regular physical activity of 30 minutes most days of the week.  This level of activit shown to decrease blood pressure, as well as help you lose weight. 

  • To lose weight, burn more calories than you eat
  • To maintain weight, burn same amount of calories you eat
  • To gain weight, you must eat more calories than you burn.


Eat more fruits and vegetables.  These contain antioxidants that help protect your body and repair damage in your cells.  Many of the vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables also help lower your blood pressure when combined with a healthy diet and healthy body weight.  Include a variety of colors (red, green, orange, purple, yellow) into your daily diet.  Most fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals making it a good snack or side dish.  Try to add fruits and/or vegetables at each meal and snack.

Choose healthier protein rich foods. Eat

Fish, soy products, nuts, seeds, beans, fat free milk and milk products.  Limit eating red meat to 2-3 times per week.  Include more vegetarian-based meals that include beans, tofu (soy), edamame (soy), or nuts.  These protein sources are cholesterol free, trans fat free, low in saturated fat (bad fat), and high in mono-and poly- unsaturated fats (good fats).  Soy products have also been shown to lower cholesterol, which include tofu, edamame, soy milk, soy nuts, and soy-based products. 

How to Read a Nutrition Facts Label

For more information:

Go to the Stroke health topic.