A high-fiber diet does more than lower cholesterol levels and keep you regular: it also reduces stroke risk, according to a review of the research. The meta-analysis pooled the data from eight large studies and concluded that people who get a lot of dietary fiber were less at risk of stroke.
Gathering the data
The review was published in the journal, Stroke, and included data from studies done in the US, Japan, Europe, and Australia. Although there were some important differences in study design, the researchers were able to pull all the data together and analyze it as a single set of data. A total of 327,537 people were part of the review.
More fiber linked to fewer strokes
The analysis showed the following:
More fiber in the diet lowered risk of having a stroke for the first time (primary risk). For every 7 grams per day of dietary fiber, primary stroke risk was reduced by 7%.
The protection against ischemic stroke was the strongest benefit seen. Ischemic stroke a common type of stroke in which blood flow to a region of the brain is temporarily blocked, often by a blood clot.
Soluble fiber, which becomes gel-like when exposed to water in the stomach or intestines, was found to be protective by itself, but the role of insoluble fiber, which is coarser and does not interact with water, was less clear.
Specific foods, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables did not appear to protect against stroke on their own; only total dietary fiber intake lessened stroke risk.
It’s easy to get more fiber
Based on their findings, the researchers said decreasing stroke risk by 7% is easy. “To place this in context,” they said, “increasing dietary fiber intake (AOAC) by 7 grams per day is achievable, and it is equivalent to [adding] a portion of whole-meal pasta (70 grams), or a piece of fruit (apple/pear/orange) plus a serving of tomatoes each day.”
Here are some other ways to increase your dietary fiber intake and reduce stroke risk:
Choose hummus instead of cheese. While cheese has no fiber, a ¼ cup of hummus, which is made from chick peas and sesame seeds, provides nearly 4 grams.
Swap a serving of meat for a serving of beans. A ½ cup of beans has 5 to 8 grams of fiber, depending on the type, while chicken and beef have none.
Nosh on nuts. Adding a ¼ cup of nuts can give you 2 to 4 extra grams of fiber. Almonds have the most, but peanuts and walnuts are also good sources.
Eat your vegetables. You can boost your fiber intake by 4 to 8 grams by remembering to eat a ½ cup of cooked greens or a couple of raw carrots.
Go with whole grains. If your rice is brown, a cup will give you about 4 grams of fiber, but if it’s white, it only has 1 gram. Other whole grains like oats and quinoa also provide lots of fiber.
(Stroke 2013;44: online publication)
Maureen Williams, ND, completed her doctorate in naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle and has been in private practice since 1995. With an abiding commitment to access to care, she has worked in free clinics in the US and Canada, and in rural clinics in Guatemala and Honduras where she has studied traditional herbal medicine. She currently lives and practices in Victoria, BC, and lectures and writes extensively for both professional and community audiences on topics including family nutrition, menopause, anxiety and depression, heart disease, cancer, and easing stress. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.