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March 9, 2023

How to eat well for recovery after a stroke

Recovery from a stroke depends on healthy eating.

The chances of a person having another stroke can be decreased by making good eating choices.

The most important thing is to reduce are snack-type foods, sugar, salt, highly processed meals, saturated and trans fats, and fried foods.

Eating well after a stroke is essential for a good recovery, and it’s easier than you think to nourish your body while enjoying delicious meals.

Rozanna M. Rosly, a registered clinical dietitian with more than 22 years of experience, recommends a hybrid of the two diets, known as the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND Diet), which has been clinically proven to improve stroke recovery. DASH stands for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension.

Rozanna, who is also affiliated with Avisena Women’s and Children’s Specialist Hospital said: “This will help prevent a future stroke, which is the focus after a stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA).”

So, what is the MIND Diet, and how can it help with stroke recovery?

The MIND Diet encourages the consumption of ten foods, including green vegetables, berries and beans, and discourages five foods, including margarine, cheese and pastries.

Rozanna said the MIND diet also ‘helps to manage certain stroke risk factors such as atherosclerosis and obesity. The diet has been shown to reduce the risk of cognitive problems (memory loss or language and concentration problems) that patients experience after a stroke.

Fibre up your diet

Increase your fibre intake and prevent blood sugar fluctuations by replacing rice and other refined foods with whole grains.

This will help you feel fuller and prevent sudden cravings for sweet foods and drinks later in the day. It also helps with weight management.

Fueling your comeback: Increase protein intake to rebuild muscle

“Get enough nutrients, especially protein, to build and maintain muscle tissue during stroke recovery,” says Rozanna.

This is especially important if you are doing physiotherapy exercises during stroke rehabilitation, she added.

Swallowing or chewing after stroke

Some stroke survivors may have difficulty swallowing food or drinking fluids due to weakness in their throat muscles.

Rozanna warns that this can lead to a condition called aspiration pneumonia, that occurs when food or liquid is breathed into the airways or lungs, instead of being swallowed.

In some cases, a feeding tube may be needed until the person can swallow on their own.

A speech and language therapist will recommend a soft or pureed diet that is easier for recovering stroke patients.

Bad fats in disguise

Diets high in saturated fats are linked to high cholesterol and an increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Excessive intake of added sugars has been linked to high blood pressure, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia, all of which are risk factors for stroke.

Remember that recovering well after a stroke isn’t just about what you eat, but also how you eat,” says Rozanna.

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