Healthy nutrition not only facilitates recovery from a stroke but also reduces the chance of a recurrent stroke. Community nurses and rehabilitation nurses can play a vital role in promoting recovery of patients after stroke through monitoring the nutritional status of the patient and advocating for healthy foods that speed up the recovery process while preventing another stroke.
Diet and foods that aid in recovery after stroke
- The MIND Diet
The MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Findings of a study show that the MIND diet has the potential to slow the cognitive decline among stroke survivors. This diet places emphasis on the consumption of leafy greens, vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine.
Tomatoes are rich sources of lycopene. Lycopene is a nutrient that belongs to the carotenoid family and has shown to protect neurons from ischemic injury, reverse ischemia-induced changes in the brain and improve neuronal functioning. Other sources of lycopene include papayas, watermelon, pink grapefruit, red oranges, red carrots, guavas, and apricot.
Berries such as blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, etc. contain anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are antioxidants that protect the neurons from damage caused by free radicals. Studies also show that it upregulates neurogenesis and neuroplasticity and is linked to less cognitive decline.
4. Green leafy vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are a rich source of folate, phylloquinone, and lutein. All these nutrients are neuroprotective and slow the decline in cognitive abilities. Green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, collards, and lettuce also contain Vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium making them essential in the diet of stroke survivors.
Legumes such as beans, peas, soybeans, etc. are rich sources of fiber and have lipid-lowering properties. They are also high in protein and low on fats, hence beneficial in maintaining muscle strength.
Pomegranates have polyphenols that have shown to improve the cognitive and functional recovery following stroke. It also improves balance and sensorimotor coordination.
7. Nuts and seeds
Nuts such as walnuts are high in magnesium which can relieve the pain caused due to spastic muscles in patients with neurological damage post-stroke and it also reduces the risk of recurrent stroke.
Flaxseeds and sesame seeds are high in omega 3 fatty acids, specifically alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) that boosts neuroplasticity and neuroprotection.
Fishes such as Salmon, Sardines, Mackerel, and Rainbow trout are rich in omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. These are found to exert anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on the brain. Studies have also found that omega 3 fatty acids can trigger responses such as neurogenesis and revascularization in stroke survivors.
9. Olive oil
Olive oil is rich in oleic acid and phenols that include oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol, and tyrosol that are major contributors of neuroprotection. In an experimental study, olive oil reduced the volume of the infarct and neurological deficits when it was administered after ischemia.
10. Red wine
Red wine contains phytoalexin resveratrol, a neuroprotective component that enhances angiogenesis and neurogenesis.
Nurses must educate patients recovering from a stroke about the dietary changes that they need to make.
Patient teaching related to nutrition for stroke recovery and prevention of stroke.
- Include plenty of fruits and vegetables in the diet.
- Avoid refined foods and eat whole grains.
- Bake, broil or roast lean meat and poultry. Avoid frying them.
- Use natural spices and herbs for seasoning. Avoid the use of seasoned salts, commercially prepared sauces, and marinades.
- Avoid processed foods.
- Use fat -free and low-fat dairy products.
- Limit salt and use spices as an alternative to salt.
- Eat foods high in potassium.
- Snack on fresh fruits and vegetables, unsalted nuts, low-fat yogurt, and whole grain snacks.
- Read food labels carefully.
- Consult a dietitian and get a customized diet plan based on individual needs.
Diet and food have a significant impact on the recovery following a stroke. The right foods can ensure return to complete functional ability and can prevent recurrent stroke.
Sangiovanni, E., Brivio, P., Dell’Agli, M., & Calabrese, F. (2017). Botanicals as Modulators of Neuroplasticity: Focus on BDNF. Neural plasticity, 2017, 5965371. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/5965371
Chen, D., Huang, C., Chen, Z. (2019). A review for the pharmacological effect of lycopene in central nervous system disorders. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0753332218374869
Kalt, W., Cassidy, A., Howard, L., Krikorian, R., Stull, A., Tremblay, F., Zamora-Ros, R., (2019). Recent Research on the Health Benefits of Blueberries and Their Anthocyanins, Advances in Nutrition, , nmz065, https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmz065
Song, J., Kim, Y. S., Lee, D. H., Lee, S. H., Park, H. J., Lee, D., & Kim, H. (2019). Neuroprotective effects of oleic acid in rodent models of cerebral ischemia. Scientific reports, 9(1), 10732. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-47057-z