When you’re sitting down for the most important meal of the day, reach for some sliced oranges or grapefruit instead of a tall glass of OJ. Not only will you be avoiding unnecessary sugar overload, you could also be reducing your risk of stroke by nearly 20 percent, according to a new study published by Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.
According to this new research, women who maintain a diet rich in citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit may significantly reduce their risk of stroke later in life. The study authors observed that the female subjects who consumed the most citrus fruits had a 19 percent lower risk of having an ischemic stroke than those who ate less.
Citrus fruit contain a subgroup of flavonoids, called flavanones, which are the source that the new study linked with lower stroke risk. Flavanones have shown to reduce the risk of stroke by improving blood vessel health and overpowering inflammation.
The study followed 69,622 women over the course of 14 years, observing their reported food intake and specifically focusing on fruit and vegetable consumption every four years. While analyzing the women’s diets, researchers zeroed in on the six main subclasses of flavonoids: flavanones, anthocyanins, flavan-3-ols, flavonoid polymers, flavonols and flavones.
Previous studies have suggested that the flavonoids found in citrus fruits may also help prevent weight gain and metabolic syndrome, a condition that can lead to Type 2 diabetes and a higher risk of heart disease. While researchers are still calling for more studies to understand the link between fruit consumption and stroke risk, they are still urging women to choose whole fruit over concentrated juices to avoid high sugar intake from drink additives. The reason for this is because the extra fiber found in the fruit’s natural state offsets the high caloric content of their juices.
Researchers also noted that the women who consumed the most flavonoids also smoked less and exercised more. They also had a higher fiber intake mostly derived from fruits and vegetables, and they consumed less caffeine and alcohol. The study also looked at different types of fruit, and researchers concluded there was no link between flavonoid consumption from other sources and stroke risk. That’s not to say other flavonoid sources won’t benefit your health, though—keep on enjoying your dark chocolate and red wine, within reason of course.