Most of us don’t typically think about how much fuel the brain needs to function. But even under normal circumstances, the brain accounts for 25 percent of our body’s energy usage.
Now think about this: Each action performed by a stroke survivor takes twice the energy it used to, according to Peter G. Levine, codirector of the Drake Center’s Neuromotor Recovery and Rehabilitation Laboratory at the University of Cincinnati Academic Medical Center and author of “Stronger After Stroke: Your Roadmap to Recovery.” You can begin to see why a healthy diet that fuels your body is so critical to a stroke survivor’s recovery and quality of life.
Besides providing the nutrients to fuel your brain’s recovery, a healthy diet helps stroke survivors manage against their high risk for cardiovascular disease and recurrent strokes. The Mediterranean diet — which includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, fish, legumes, nuts and a moderate amount of alcohol — can help lower your risk of both. Here are a few pointers on how to fuel your recovery with a brain- and heart-healthy diet.
GO! Foods for You
GO! Foods for You is an expert-guided online program designed by the wellness team at the world-famous Cleveland Clinic, based on the principles of the Mediterranean diet.
In eight weeks, you’ll learn how to change your life — one small step at a time — by changing what and how you eat. So don’t go on another diet. Learn how to eat right with GO! Foods for You.
Make Your Calories Count
While you need to eat to fuel your brain, that doesn’t mean loading up on calories. To maintain your weight, you must eat only as many calories as you burn; any calories that your body doesn’t immediately use are stored in your fat cells — and everyone, especially a stroke survivor, needs to avoid that. Focus on the quality of the food you’re eating — meaning whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, bulgur and whole wheat; good fats from sources like fish, nuts, avocados and olive oil; and protein from beans, peanut butter and nuts, soy, fish and lean poultry — while keeping the quantity at reasonable levels.
Go for Garden-Variety Meals
Fruits and vegetables are your front line of dietary defense. They’re loaded with more disease and age fighters than a supermarket supplement aisle, and extensive research shows that fruits and vegetables are an important part of a heart-healthy diet, and may even reduce stroke-related brain damage.
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