The 3 S to Avoid during Stroke Recovery

French fries are a bad choice for people recovering from a stroke

In this article, we will list down what you should limit or preferably avoid at all times after stroke. Just always remember not to include or avoid three “S” in your recovery diet—salt, sugar, and saturated fats.

Salt

Salt is one of the factors why one’s brain is incapable of producing new brain cells and improving the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is contrary to one’s stroke recovery goals. What’s more, a number of medical studies show that high salt intake increases blood pressure levels, contributing to an increased risk for hypertension and stroke.

As much as possible, maintain your sodium intake under 2,400 milligrams each day or avoid salt at all. Other health professionals limit persons with medical histories like high blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke to 1,500 milligrams sugar intake each day.

If you lower your salt intake gradually, your taste buds will eventually adjust in a few weeks. When preparing for your meals after suffering from stroke, use herbs and spices to increase flavors and season dishes instead. Typically, they are consumed together with fruits, vegetables, and other green superfoods.

Here’s a list of 19 different herbs and spices as natural salt alternatives.

  1. Basil - has a subtle peppery flavor
  2. Cardamon - has a citrusy, minty, spicy, and herbal-like flavor
  3. Chilli/Cayenne - has a tangy flavor
  4. Cinnamon - has a pungent flavor
  5. Chives - has a less powerful onion-like flavor
  6. Coriander - has a warm, nutty, spicy, and orange-like flavor
  7. Dill - has a sweet, lemony, and bitter flavor
  8. Cumin - has an earthy, nutty, spicy flavor
  9. Ginger - has a slightly pungent, mildly spicy, and very slight woody flavor
  10. Mint - has a sweet flavor with a cooling after effect
  11. Nutmeg - has a nutty, warm, slightly sweet flavor
  12. Oregano - has a slightly bitter, pungent flavor
  13. Paprika - has a pungent taste (when heated)
  14. Parsley - has a slightly bitter, grassy flavor
  15. Rosemary - has a minty, peppery, sage-like, balsamic flavor
  16. Sage - has sweet, slightly bitter, and pine-like flavor
  17. Tarragon - has a pungent, licorice-like flavor
  18. Thyme - has a pungent and slightly bitter flavor
  19. Turmeric - has a pungent, bitter flavor

How to identify a low-sodium food? Here’s a quick note to follow:

  • Low sodium - contains 140 mg or less sodium per serving
  • Very low sodium - contains 35 mg or less of sodium per serving
  • Reduced sodium - contains 25% less sodium than a comparable food product
  • Light or Lite in sodium - contains at least 50% less sodium than a comparable food product
  • No salt added - no salt added, but naturally-occurring sodium may occur in the ingredients

Sugar

Excessive sugar intake leads to obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia (i.e., the irregular level of lipids in the blood), and the most common one type-2 diabetes which are all risk factors that lead to strokes. Artificial sweeteners, sweetened drinks, brown and white sugar, jam, jelly, and molasses are examples of added sugar that can increase blood sugar levels. 

Fruits are natural sweeteners that we usually eat. However, being natural does not immediately mean they are safer. A few fruits, like bananas and mangoes, have high calories. You may use sugar substitutes or low-calorie-sweeteners. Diabetics can enjoy sweet meals and beverages with these substitutes without affecting their blood sugar levels.

Here’s a list of seven of low-calorie sweeteners for diabetics, which are all approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

  1. Stevia - 250-300 times sweeter sucrose (i.e., table sugar), where most components have zero calories
  2. Tagatose - 90-92% sweeter than sucrose, but with only 38% of the calories
  3. Sucralose - 600 times sweeter than sucrose, but contains very few calories
  4. Aspartame - 200 times sweeter than sucrose, but contains four calories per gram
  5. Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K) - 200 times sweeter than sucrose, but has known to have zero calories
  6. Saccharin - 200–700 times sweeter than sucrose, has zero calories
  7. Neotame - 7,000–13,000 times sweeter than sucrose, has zero calories

Saturated Fats

Fats are also necessary for our bodies. ‘Good’ fats are needed for hormones, nerves, cells, brain, and heart to function properly. It’s just that you need to know which fat is the right one to add in a healthy diet. The following are the different kinds of fats:

  • Polyunsaturated fats - an essential fat that lowers bad cholesterol
  • Monounsaturated fats - lower bad cholesterol and maintains good cholesterol
  • Saturated fats - increase bad and total cholesterol
  • Trans fats - by-products of healthier fats to lengthen shell life, but increases bad cholesterol and reduces good cholesterol

The healthiest fats are the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Both are taken from seeds, nuts, fatty fish, and plant-based liquid oils. For instance, the American Heart Association recommended to avocados, mackerel, tuna, salmon, sardines, and lake trout.

Saturated and trans fat, on the other hand, are bad fats that tend to increase bad cholesterol levels, increasing the risks of heart disease. They are taken from animal sources and whole-milk dairy products. To lower down cholesterol level, here are substitutions of saturated fat in your diet:

  • Light or diet margarine (instead of butter)
  • Low-fat or nonfat cheese (instead of regular cheese)
  • Nonfat creamer or nonfat half & half (instead of creamer or half & half)
  • 1% or nonfat skimmed milk (instead of whole or 2% milk)
  • Reduced fat or nonfat cream cheese (instead of cream cheese)
  • Nonfat or low-fat sorbet or frozen yogurt (instead of regular ice cream)
  • 1% or nonfat cottage cheese (instead of 2-4% milkfat cottage cheese)
  • Marinara, primavera or olive-oil based sauce (instead of Alfredo or other cream sauces)
  • Light or nonfat mayonnaise (instead of Mayonnaise)
  • Select grades of beef (instead of prime grades of beef)
  • Tenderloin (instead of Spareribs)
  • Chicken without skin (instead of Chicken with skin on)
  • Egg whites or egg substitutes (instead of Whole egg)

Cholesterol regulates cell health. However, too much cholesterol in the blood can lead to heart disease and stroke. There are two main factors on how your cholesterol level spikes up. It increases based on the amount of cholesterol your body produces, and the amount of cholesterol and fat in your food.

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