Super-easy foods can cut stroke risk. Whole wheat bread, instead of white, for your sandwich. Popcorn instead of cookies for an evening snack. Easy whole grain switches such as these could cut your risk of stroke nearly in half, new research shows.
When Harvard University researchers examined 12 years of food diaries kept by 75,000 women participating in the landmark Nurses’ Health Study, they found that those who ate the most whole grains, about 2 to 3 servings a day, reduced stroke risk by up to 40 percent (JAMA, Sept 27, 2000).
Prevention readers may already be aware that eating whole grains may reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and breast cancer, which is why we recommend getting at least three servings a day.
Lead study author Simin Liu, MD, MPH, ScD, assistant professor of medicine and director of nutrition research at Harvard Medical School, says that protective substances found in whole grains–antioxidants, fiber, and a host of vitamins and minerals–have also proven, individually, to protect against stroke. This study shows that getting them as a package, by choosing whole grain foods, is an effective and easy strategy.
“If a woman has the simple habit of making a sandwich with two slices of whole wheat bread, instead of white, she will get two servings of whole grains,” says Dr. Liu.
Some other quick whole grain strategies include the following:
Quick-cooking whole grain couscous (takes only 5 minutes to cook), brown rice, or whole wheat pasta.
Wheat germ sprinkled over salad.
A bowl of air-popped popcorn (Dr. Liu’s favorite) or whole grain crackers.
Hot oatmeal or whole grain cold cereals (such as Total, Wheaties, and Cheerios).