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:
Brown rice is good for you, but black rice is even better. That's because the bran hull contains significantly higher amounts of vitamin E, which bolsters the immune system and protects cells from free radical damage. In fact, black rice contains more anthocyanin antioxidants than blueberries, according to a study from the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center. More from Health.com: Superfoods You Need Now 6 Cancer-Fighting Superfoods 25 Diet-Busting Foods You Should Never Eat
These legumes are loaded with iron: One cup has about 8 milligrams, getting you almost halfway to the daily requirement of 18 milligrams for women. Lentils also boast high levels of soluble fiber, which may not only lower your cholesterol, but could also improve immune function, according to a new University of Illinois study.
Polyphenols found in dark berries may help reduce cognitive decline in older age by cleaning up cells that impair brain function, researchers at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston say. Blackberries are also hugely fiber-rich -- one cup has almost 8 of the 25 grams you need daily.
The dark skins of these beans are packed with bioflavonoids -- potent plant-based nutrients that may protect against cancer, research out of Cornell University reveals.
Move over, edamame. A Korean study found that eating black soybeans can help reduce the risk of thrombosis -- a type of blood clot that's potentially fatal -- even more than yellow or green soybeans. And all soybean oil contains alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid that may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Green and white teas get all the health hype, but good old black tea has its perks, too. It contains theaflavins -- antioxidants that a study from Rutgers University in New Jersey suggests may improve recovery from muscle soreness after intense exercise. Drinking black tea may also lower your risk of having a heart attack. More from Health.com: Superfoods You Need Now 6 Cancer-Fighting Superfoods 25 Diet-Busting Foods You Should Never Eat