Eating a bowl of wholegrain pasta with a mixed salad could cut your risk of a stroke, say researchers.
They found people who regularly eat more dietary fibre were less likely to suffer a stroke, with the risk falling by about seven per cent for each high-fibre meal.
Good sources of fibre include whole grains, fruit and vegetables, and nuts, which contain parts of the plant the body doesn’t absorb during digestion.
Previous research suggests dietary fibre can reduce risk factors for stroke, including high blood pressure and high levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol.
In the new study, researchers found that each seven gram increase in total daily fibre intake was linked to a seven per cent drop in first-time stroke risk.
One serving of whole wheat pasta, plus two servings of fruits or vegetables, provides about 7 grams of fibre, said UK researchers in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.
Lead author, Diane Threapleton, from the University of Leeds’ School of Food Science and Nutrition, said: ‘Greater intake of fibre-rich foods – such as whole-grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts – are important for everyone, and especially for those with stroke risk factors like being overweight, smoking and having high blood pressure.
‘Most people do not get the recommended level of fibre, and increasing fibre may contribute to lower risk for strokes.
‘We must educate consumers on the continued importance of increasing fibre intake and help them learn how to increase fibre in their diet.’
Researchers analysed eight studies published between 1990 and 2012.
Three assessed haemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel bleeds into the brain or on its surface.
Other stroke risk factors like age and smoking were taken into account.
The results showed total dietary fibre consumed was linked with stroke risk, with the risk falling in line with increasing amounts eaten.
Researchers did not find an association with soluble fibre and stroke risk, and lacked enough data on insoluble fibre to make any conclusions about the best kind of dietary fibre.
Soluble fibres, which dissolve in water, include oats and oat bran, peas, beans, barley.
Insoluble fibres, which promote the movement of material through the digestive system, include whole wheat, whole grain, vegetable and fruit skins, and wheat bran.
Studies have shown that people who eat a lot of insoluble fibre have lower blood pressure and lower body weight, whereas high blood pressure and obesity raise stroke risk.
A recent study from Oxford University found that eating more fruit and vegetables would dramatically cut the annual toll of premature deaths in the UK.
It showed 15,000 lives would be saved by sticking to five-a-day advice, including 7,000 from coronary heart disease, almost 5,000 from cancer and more than 3,000 from stroke.
The UK’s nutritional target is for people to eat 440g of fruit and vegetables every day.
The average consumption of fruit and vegetables is three portions a day, with only 22 per cent of Britons consuming the recommended five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
Dr Clare Walton of the Stroke Association said: ‘Making healthy lifestyle changes are important to help reduce your risk of stroke, and this research suggests that eating foods high in fibre is particularly beneficial.
‘We recommend having a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts and other wholegrain foods to increase your fibre intake.
‘You can also reduce your risk of stroke by exercising regularly and lowering the amount of saturated fat and salt in your diet.’