White Produce and Stroke Risk
We've all heard plenty of advice about eating your leafy greens and colored fruits -- and they're certainly an important part of a healthy diet. But a new study, just released in September has shaken everything we thought we knew about fruit and vegetable nutrition. Forget greens and reds, purples, blues, and oranges when it comes to produce. According to the latest study, white is now the color of health -- especially when it comes to protection against stroke.
In a study that took place at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, researchers had approximately 20,000 adult volunteers complete questionnaires about their typical eating habits.1 The subjects, who had an average age of 41 and were not previously diagnosed with any form of cardiovascular disease, were then tracked for then years. During that time, 233 of the participants had a stroke.
By comparing the specifics of their diets, the scientists were able to identify a trend that those who regularly eat greater quantities of white fruits and vegetables are 52 percent less likely to suffer a stroke than those who eat only a little white produce. And for every 25-gram (one ounce) daily increase of white produce a subject consumes, there is a corresponding nine percent reduction in risk of stroke. The researchers' category of white fruits and vegetables included apples, pears, bananas, cauliflower, chicory, and cucumber. White potatoes, alas, did not make the list -- instead, they were considered a starch.
There are earlier studies that have made the association between a high intake of fruits and vegetables and a lower risk of stroke, but this is the first one that pinpointed the effects of particular colors of produce. White was a winner. Stunningly, there was no evidence of a connection between other colored fruits and vegetables and lowered stroke risk. None of the other colors analyzed, including green, yellow, red, orange, and purple, were found to have an impact on stroke incidence.
Why is white produce so special? The researchers don't know exactly. It could have something to do with the antioxidants they provide. Apples and pears are both full of flavonoids, including quercetin, which stabilize the free radicals that can damage our DNA and blood vessels. They also contain a lot of fiber, in the form of pectin, which has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels in the blood. Bananas are a wonderful source of potassium, which helps maintain blood pressure levels and protects against atherosclerosis, and they are also high in fiber. Cauliflower offers sulforaphane, which has been found to lower cancer risk, as well as plentiful amounts of vitamin C and fiber. Chicory contains cichoric acid, a polyphenol antioxidant that can stimulate the immune system. Cucumbers also have a lot of fiber and vitamin C. But these are all different nutrients that provide different benefits to the body. As to what they all share in common, other than their whiteness, that helps protect against stroke: that's still a mystery -- like dark matter.
So clearly white produce should be on your grocery list, but despite the results of this particular study, you should not neglect other colors of fruits and vegetables. They all offer their own health benefits, and the best nutrition comes from a varied diet that features everything in moderation. All forms of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables should be the cornerstone of your daily diet. Aside from stroke, they help prevent many diseases including cancer and diabetes.
But at a time such as now when stroke rates are on the rise, we need to do what we can to protect ourselves. Although strokes can be caused by leaky blood vessels, the primary cause is when a blood clot disrupts the flow of blood to your brain. Risk factors include high blood pressure, a high cholesterol level, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, being overweight, and cigarette smoking. The risk of stroke also increases after the age of 55, but a recent study at the Centers for Disease Control found that the rate of strokes in children and younger adults has risen tremendously in just the last decade.2 The largest jump was in boys and men between the ages of 15 and 34; their rate of hospitalizations for stroke increased by 51 percent. And every age category for both males and females between 5 and 44 years old also experienced an increase.
To protect yourself from becoming one of these statistics, you need to prevent the blood clots that are the cause of stroke, as well as heart attacks and pulmonary embolisms, from forming. Far safer than the drugs the medical community touts (which can cause internal bleeding), are proteolytic enzyme formulations that incorporate specialized enzymes such as nattokinase. They also benefit you by dissolving arterial plaque and helping promote the repair of arterial tissue. Combined with improvements to your diet, including adding more raw foods such as white produce, you will be greatly improving your odds against stroke and a host of other diseases as well.
1 Oude Griep, Linda M.; Verschuren, W.M. Monique; Kromhout, Daan; et al. "Colors of Fruit and Vegetables and 10-Year Incidence of Stroke." Stroke. 15 September 2011. American Heart Association, Inc. 6 November 2011. <http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/42/11/3190>.
2 Kuklina, Elena V.; Gillespie, Cathleen; George, Mary G. "Ischemic stroke hospitalizations decline in middle aged, elderly, increases in young." American Heart Association News Releases. 9 February 2011. American Heart Association, Inc. 28 April 2011. <http://www.newsroom.heart.org/index.php?s=43&item=1250>.