In a new study, researchers found that eating a healthy, plant-based diet that includes foods like vegetables, whole grains and beans, and decreasing intakes of less healthy foods like refined grains or added sugars may reduce your risk of having a stroke by up to 10%.
They found a diet high in quality plant-based foods may reduce your risk of having an ischemic stroke.
An ischemic stroke is linked to a blockage of blood flow to the brain and is the most common type of stroke.
The research was conducted by a team at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Many studies already show that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of all kinds of diseases, from heart disease to diabetes.
In the study, the team examined 209,508 people who did not have heart disease or cancer at the start of the study.
They followed the participants for more than 25 years.
Researchers divided the participants into five groups based on the quality of their diet, specifically, higher amounts of plant-based foods, without excluding all animal foods.
For example, people with the highest healthy plant-based diets had, on average, 12 servings of healthy plant-based foods like leafy greens, fruits, whole grains, beans and vegetable oils per day, compared to those with the lowest quality diets, who averaged seven and a half servings per day.
When it came to less healthy plant-based foods, such as refined grains and vegetables with high glycemic indexes like corn and potatoes, the people with the healthiest diet had, on average, three servings per day compared to six and a half servings for those with the lowest quality diets.
As for meat and dairy, the group with the healthiest diet averaged three and a half servings per day, compared to six servings per day for those with the lowest quality diets.
During the study, 6,241 people had strokes, including 3,015 who had ischemic strokes and 853 who had hemorrhagic strokes.
Compared to people who ate the fewest healthful plant-based foods, people who ate the most had a 10% lower risk of having a stroke.
When looking at the type of stroke, compared to people who ate the fewest healthful plant-based foods, people in the group who ate the most showed about an 8% lower risk for ischemic stroke.
The researchers believe those differences may be because of the differences in the quality of plant-based foods that people consumed.
A vegetarian diet high in less healthy plant-based foods, such as refined grains, added sugars, and fats, is one example of how the quality of some so-called ‘healthy’ diets differs.
One author of the study is Megu Baden, M.D., Ph.D.
The study is published in Neurology.
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