Research based on the Swedish Mammography Cohort shows women who eat diets rich in fruits and vegetables have higher antioxidant capacity allowing the body to fight free radicals which can cause a variety of cancers and contribute to heart disease and stroke. Phytochemicals with antioxidant properties such as vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids and flavonoids are found in fruits and vegetables.
The study followed the diet of more than 36,000 women without heart disease as well as close to 5,700 women with a history of heart disease between 1987 and 2009. Daily diet was assessed with a food frequency questionnaire.
The findings published in the December journal, Stroke, showed among women with no history of heart disease, those with the highest levels of diet-based antioxidants had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke than those with the lowest levels. Among women with a history of heart disease who also had the highest levels benefited from a 46-57 percent lower risk of suffering a hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke compared to those with the lowest levels. According to the study authors, fruits and vegetables contributed 50 percent of total antioxidant capacity, followed by 18 percent from whole grains. Other studies have also shown plant-based diets reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.