It's not enough to simply cut back on meats and dairy products, reports the Harvard Health Letter. Fruits, grains and vegetables must be the very core of a heart-healthy diet.
In a study of heart attack survivors in Moradabad, India, 204 patients who followed a low-fat diet that included at least 400 grams of fruits and vegetables per day were compared with 202 patients who simply reduced their intake of saturated fats. After one year, 50 heart attacks or sudden deaths occurred among the fruit and veggie eaters, compared with 82 among those on the more standard diet. Researchers speculate that the fiber- and vitamin-rich diet made the difference.
And don't forget to crack a few nuts. When researchers at Loma Linda University in California studied a group of Seventh Day Adventists, they found that those who rarely eat nuts suffer heart attacks at twice the rate of those who eat nuts five times a week. So they set up two diet trials. Both of the experimental diets derived 30 percent of their calories from fat (14 percent lower than the typical U.S. diet); substituting walnuts for two-thirds of the fat in this diet further reduced serum cholesterol by more than 10 percent.
Photography by National Gardening Association