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Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
June 28, 2024 ·  5 min read

6 Foods That Can Increase Stroke Risk & 6 Foods That Minimize It

Strokes are a medical emergency. They can occur suddenly and without treatment and can cause brain damage, long-term disabilities, or death. An ischemic stroke happens when a blocked artery cuts off oxygen to part of the brain, causing the cells to stop working properly and begin dying. This creates symptoms such as weakness, slurred speech, and paralysis or numbness on one side of the face or body. Although it’s impossible to prevent a stroke definitively, there are many ways to reduce the risk, namely through improving one’s diet and lifestyle. In fact, there are certain foods that can help reduce the risk. On the flip side, there are some unhealthy foods that have been linked to a higher risk of strokes. 

Types of Foods that Increase the Risk of a Stroke

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Although it’s impossible to definitively prevent a stroke, there are many ways to reduce the risk of one, namely through improving one’s diet and lifestyle. In fact, there are certain foods that can help reduce the risk. And on the flip side, there are some unhealthy foods that have been linked to a higher risk of strokes. 

Read More: When it comes to heart health, white rice is just as bad as high-sugar foods like candy, study finds.

Foods high in sugar

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A diet high in sugar can lead to weight gain, which elevates the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Examples of sugary foods include:

  • Soft drinks
  • Pasta sauces and ketchup
  • Breakfast cereal and granola
  • Desserts
  • Certain “low-fat” foods

Foods high in cholesterol

A man who eats a lot of fast food
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Research has shown that high cholesterol levels can increase the chances of ischemic stroke. This is because too much cholesterol in the blood can make fatty deposits pile up in the arteries, which can then form a stroke-causing blood clot. Foods high in cholesterol include: 

  • Full-fat dairy products
  • Processed meats
  • Red meat
  • Desserts and baked goods

Foods high in saturated fats

Wagyu beef Tomosankaku  (Round tri-tip)
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Food high in cholesterol also tends to be high in saturated fat. This is problematic because saturated fats can raise the body’s level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. LDL cholesterol is also nicknamed “bad cholesterol” and high levels of it increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Products high in saturated fats include:

  • Beef
  • Coconut oil
  • Certain kinds of fried foods
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Palm oil
  • Ice cream
  • Poultry
  • Lamb
  • Pork

Foods high in trans fats

beef burger with grilled bacon  - American food - fast food
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Trans fats occur naturally in some animal products. However, many types of manufactured foods contain hydrogenated oil, which is an artificial trans fat. Eating these foods can raise LDL cholesterol levels. Additionally, they lower the amount of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in the blood. HDL cholesterol is known as the “good cholesterol” because it actually helps eliminate other kinds of cholesterol. Foods high in trans fats include:

  • Margarine 
  • Fried foods like donuts
  • Baked goods like cakes and cookies


POZNAN, POLAND - JUL 5, 2019: Bottles of several global whiskey brands, the most popular liquor in the world.
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Alcohol can raise blood pressure, which greatly increases the risk of stroke. So limit your intake to two drinks a day for men and one drink for women, or less.

Foods high in sodium

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Jan 2017: Wide range of instant noodles products on shelf in supermarket. Instant noodles are often criticized as unhealthy & junk food which are high in carbohydrates and fat.
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Many people consume more salt than they should. However, a high-sodium diet can raise blood pressure, which heightens the risk of stroke and heart disease. So reduce consumption by using more herbs and spices to flavor meals and don’t keep a salt shaker on the dining table. Additionally, beware of sodium-filled, store-bought products like canned goods, sauces, deli meat, bread, and pizza. Get into the habit of checking labels while you shop.

Read More: 34 Foods That Give You Longer Lasting Energy Than Coffee

Types of Foods that Reduce the Risk of Stroke

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Reducing the risk of stroke through dietary choices is a well-supported strategy that emphasizes the consumption of nutrient-dense foods known for their positive impact on cardiovascular health. Certain foods are particularly effective in promoting healthy blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and maintaining proper cholesterol levels, all of which are critical factors in stroke prevention. Incorporating these foods into a balanced diet can play a significant role in safeguarding against stroke by enhancing overall heart health and improving the function of the circulatory system.

Foods rich in omega-3

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Omega-3 is a type of healthy fat that raises the levels of HDL in the body, which can diminish the risk of stroke. It appears in foods such as flaxseed, omega-3-rich eggs, and fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel.

100% Orange Juice

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Experts recommend avoiding drinks with added sugars. So replace the morning beverage with 100% orange juice that has no added sweeteners. This juice contains potassium and flavonoids, both of which can decrease the risk of stroke.


Milk factory. Robotic factory line for processing and bottling of milk. Selective focus.
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Dairy products contain potassium, magnesium, and calcium, all of which are associated with a lower risk of stroke. Avoid full-fat options and look for low-fat and non-fat yogurt, cheese, and milk. Remember to check sugar content on low-fat products, since manufacturers tend to add sweeteners to improve the taste. 


Peeled dried walnut kernels in the bowl.
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Research indicates that people who consume walnuts and other nuts have a lower risk of stroke compared to those who don’t. Nuts are a healthy source of unsaturated fats, which can help prevent blood clots and blockages in the arteries. 

Fruits and vegetables

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Increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables has the potential to reduce the risk of stroke. These foods are rich in nutrients and fiber, which can help maintain a healthy weight and keep the body healthy. Additionally, they contain beta-carotene as well as vitamins A, C, and E, which can strengthen the arteries. Strawberries in particular are a healthy choice because they contain high amounts of fisetin, a type of antioxidant that may help prevent stroke.

Whole grains

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Research shows that moderate amounts of bran and whole grain cereal may lower the risk of stroke. Additionally, whole grains are full of other heart-healthy perks. For instance, they can help maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure. Healthy grains to try include:

  • Whole oats
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Bran
  • Whole grain bread

Read More: 10 Foods That Could Cause Bloating and What to Eat Instead


  1. “Can These Foods Help Prevent Stroke? Cleveland Clinic. January 6, 2021
  2. “Artificially Sweetened Beverages and Stroke, Coronary Heart Disease, and All-Cause Mortality in the Women’s Health Initiative.Stroke. Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani. February 14, 2019
  3. “Which foods may help to prevent stroke?Medical News Today. Oladimeji Ewumi. January 16, 2023
  4. “Eat a healthy diet.” Stroke Association
  5. “7 Dietician-Approved Foods to Reduce Stroke Risk.Very Well Health. Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC. May 4, 2021
  6. Dairy Products: Milk, Yogurt and Cheese.American Heart Association. December 20, 2023