Even making small changes to your eating habits can make a difference to your overall health, particularly if you have been told that you are at risk of having a stroke or TIA.

Why?

Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help to lower your blood pressure and control diabetes. 

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that can be absorbed from foods. If there is too much cholesterol in your blood it can cause fatty deposits to build up in your arteries and restrict the flow of blood. However, eating well can reduce your cholesterol level.

How can I eat more healthily?

We should all get a variety of fruit, vegetables, starchy food and protein in our diet. 

A dietitian can give you advice on healthy eating if you are unsure of what to eat, need to lose weight or have diabetes. Your GP can refer you to see one.

Here are some of our tips for eating a healthy, balanced diet.

Eat more fruit and vegetables

  • Fruit and vegetables are an important source of vitamins and minerals and you should aim to have five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. 

Eat more fibre

  • Foods that are high in fibre help to reduce the amount of cholesterol in your blood, so when choosing starchy foods, go for wholegrain cereals, brown rice or grains such as whole wheat couscous.

Eat healthy protein

  • Eating saturated fats can raise your cholesterol. To reduce the amount of saturated fat you eat, try to eat lean cuts of meat and take the skin off poultry. You could use beans or lentils to replace some of the meat in stews and curries.
  • It’s a good idea to eat two portions of fish every week, especially oily fish like mackerel, sardines or salmon, as these contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can prevent blood clots and lower blood pressure.
  • Vegetarian or vegan sources of protein include tofu, mycoprotein (such as Quorn), textured vegetable protein and tempeh.

Cut down on fat and sugar

  • We all need small amounts of fat and sugar in our diets, but too much can lead to weight problems. Food that has been fried in butter, oil or ghee will contain high amounts of fat. Use vegetable, nut and olive-based oils instead.
  • Processed meats, full-fat cheese and manufactured cakes and biscuits all contain a lot of saturated fat, so try to limit the amount of these in your diet.
  • The high levels of sugar in many soft drinks, ready meals and fast food can all add up to weight gain. Eating more home-made meals and snacks can help cut sugar in your diet.

Try new ways of cooking

  • Steaming, boiling and grilling are all healthier than frying, which adds extra fat.
  • Fried foods should be enjoyed as occasional treats, rather than as a regular part of your diet.

Watch the salt

  • Too much salt can increase your blood pressure. You should not eat more than 6g (or a teaspoon) of salt per day. 
  • Much of the salt we eat is ‘hidden’ in processed foods like ready meals, crisps, nuts, cake and biscuits and processed meats.
  • Avoid adding salt to food when you’re cooking or at the table. Try using fresh ginger, lemon juice and chillies or dried herbs and spices to flavour food instead. 

Find out more

The NHS Choices LiveWell website can help you make lifestyle changes. There are recipes, meal planners and hints and tips on how to eat well and get active.

You’ll also find lots of tips and more information in our leaflet Healthy eating and stroke.

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