In another reminder to eat more fruits and vegetables, a new study has found that women who ate a diet rich in antioxidants reduced their risk of stroke, regardless of their cardiovascular history.
Published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association last week, researchers tracked the dietary habits of 31,035 women who were heart disease-free and 5,680 women with a history of cardiovascular disease from the Swedish Mammography Cohort. The women were aged 49-83 years old.
After collecting dietary data from food questionnaires, researchers from the Karolinksa Institutet in Sweden determined the participants’ total antioxidant capacity (TAC), which measures the free radical-reducing capacity of all antioxidants in the diet.
Results showed that women with the highest levels of dietary TAC reduced their risk of stroke by 17 percent.
In this group, fruits and vegetables contributed to 50 percent of their TAC, while whole grains made up 18 percent, tea 16 percent and chocolate 5 percent.
Women with a history of heart disease with high levels of dietary TAC also lowered their risk of hemorrhagic stroke by up to 57 percent.
Antioxidants help counter the effects of free radicals -- organic molecules responsible for aging, tissue damage and disease.
They also help reduce the risk of stroke by inhibiting inflammation and oxidative stress, the imbalance between the production of cell-damaging free radicals and the body’s ability to neutralize them.
Some of the most antioxidant-rich foods include berries, broccoli, garlic, green tea and tomatoes.
Cooking also alters antioxidant levels in foods. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Food Science found, for instance, that cauliflower suffered the highest loss of antioxidants after it was boiled or zapped in the microwave. Peas lost much of their nutritional properties after being boiled, as did zucchini when boiled or fried.
The sturdiest vegetables turned out to be artichokes, beets, garlic and green beans, which held onto their antioxidant properties after most cooking treatments. Not only did green beans hold steady to their nutritional properties, they -- along with celery and carrots -- actually increased their antioxidant levels after cooking.
The most antioxidant-destructive cooking methods overall? Pressure-cooking and boiling.