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Fruit and vegetables are very beneficial to heart health

New research from the American College of Physicians highlights the powerful role of fruits and vegetables in protecting heart health. 

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one cause of disease and death worldwide. 

A healthy diet is a critical lifestyle factor for maintaining a healthy heart, and the new study suggests that some nutritious diets may be even more beneficial than others. 

Mediterranean, vegetarian, and DASH diets are the most widely recommended for cardiovascular health.

The DASH diet is high in vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, and a moderate amount of whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish, and poultry. 

The traditional Mediterranean diet includes the same plant-based foods as the DASH diet but also includes high consumption of extra-virgin olive oil and moderate consumption of wine. 

Essentially, both of these diets, as well as the vegetarian diet, are centered around plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables.

In a study focused on middle-aged adults without a known history of cardiovascular disease (CVD), the researchers set out to compare a typical American diet with diets rich in fruits and vegetables to examine any potential cardiovascular effects.

“Participants were randomly assigned to 8 weeks of monitored feeding with a control diet typical of what many Americans eat; a diet rich in fruits and vegetables but otherwise similar to the control diet; or the DASH diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and fiber and has low levels of saturated fat and cholesterol,” explained the study authors. 

After the eight week intervention, participants in the DASH and fruit-and-vegetable diet groups had significantly lower concentrations of the biomarkers for myocardial injury and cardiac stress. 

The experts theorize that large dietary amounts of potassium, magnesium, and fiber can partially explain the beneficial effects of the DASH and vegetarian diets on heart health. 

The protection from myocardial injury and cardiac stress may also be explained by the influence of fruits and vegetables in reducing blood pressure, cholesterol, oxidative stress, and inflammation.

According to the experts, recommendations to increase the intake of fruits and vegetables to at least 10 servings per day should be generalized to the overall population, regardless of health status. 

The research is published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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