Eating a diet rich in antioxidants, with lots of fruits and vegetables, is linked with a lower stroke risk in women, according to a new study.
The findings held true regardless of the women's heart disease history, researchers reported in a study to be published in the journal Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden speculate that the protection comes from antioxidants' ability to stop inflammation and oxidative stress in the body by neutralizing harmful free radicals. Antioxidants can also help to reduce blood clots and lower blood pressure and decrease, according to the American Heart Association.
"This means people should eat more foods such as fruits and vegetables that contribute to total antioxidant capacity," study researcher Susanne Rautiainen said in a statement.
Researchers looked at the health data of 31,035 women without heart disease and 5,680 women with a heart disease history, all between the ages of 49 and 83, for the study. They found that the most antioxidants in the women's diets came from fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
The New York Daily News reported that women with no heart disease history who consumed the most antioxidants from food had a decreased stroke risk of 17 percent, and that women with a heart disease history who consumed the most antioxidants from food had a 57 percent decreased risk of a hemorrhagic stroke.
"The most interesting message from this study is the concept that antioxidants can prevent disease but they need to be consumed through food," Suzanne Steinbuam, a Lenox Hill Hospital cardiologist who was not involved in the study, told the New York Daily News.
Antioxidant-rich foods include blueberries, red beans, artichokes and even Russet potatoes, WebMD pointed out.
Black-colored foods, like black rice, have "more antioxidants than light-colored foods because of their high pigment content ," Cy Lee, Ph.D., a food chemistry professor at Cornell University, told Health.com. Check out this slideshow from Health.com on black-colored foods that are loaded with antioxidants: