White Foods May Reduce Stroke Risk

Don't be fooled by their lack of color—white fruits and vegetables contain as many essential nutrients and other health-promoting substances as do red, yellow, and green foods.  And some of these substances may be especially important for aging adults.

To make sure you're getting all the nutrients you need to stay healthy, nutritionists often recommend filling your plate with foods that display a wide assortment of natural colors—orange, green, red, yellow, and brown—each of which supplies different types of nutrients and other health-promoting substances in varying amounts. But although these foods are important for fighting cancer and other chronic diseases, none appear to be as important as white foods when it comes to preventing stroke.

In a Dutch study of healthy adults, published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers found that, over the course of 10 years, the risk of stroke was 52 percent lower for those who ate the most white fruits and vegetables than for those who reported eating very few foods from this color group. In this study, no other food color was associated with lowered stroke risk.

Fruits and vegetables are classified by the color of their flesh, or leaf, not necessarily by the color of their skin. White, non-starchy fruits and vegetables include apples, bananas, pears, cauliflower, and cucumbers. Like most fruits and vegetables, the whites ones contribute fiber, vitamins, and other important nutrients to the diet.

Although researchers don't know exactly why white fruits and vegetables may contribute to a lowered risk of stroke, these foods contain health-promoting pigments called anthoxanthins  and other compounds that work with nutrients to protect against chronic disease. To get more white fruits and vegetables into your diet:

  • Enjoy a vegetarian day at least once a week that features non-starchy white foods at every meal.
  • Add banana slices to fruit salad, yogurt, peanut butter sandwiches, breakfast cereals, smoothies, pudding, and ice cream
  • Add finely diced pears or apples to muffin or quick bread mixes.
  • Dip chunks of freshly cut apples, bananas, and pears in warm, melted dark chocolate for a special and especially healthful fondue-style dessert.
  • Sautée apples and pears in a little vegetable oil with cinnamon or nutmeg and serve warm on top of pancakes or waffles or as a side dish with poultry, pork or ham.
  • Try cold cucumber soup in the summer and sautéed, seeded cucumber in winter.
  • Add thinly sliced cucumber to sandwiches.
  • Combine diced cucumber with chunks of avocado and mango for a mixed salad with a tropical twist.
  • Use cauliflower flowerets in stir-fries, sautés, and roast vegetable mixtures.
  • Keep frozen cauliflower in the freezer so you always have a white vegetable on hand.



Oude Griep, L, et al; "Colors of Fruit and Vegetbles and 10-Year Incidence of Stroke."

Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association. Sep 2011; 42:3190-3195. Web 15 Dec 2011


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