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Plant power! For heart health, get back to basics.

There are more popular diets out there than we have fingers and toes—Whole 30, paleo, and keto, to name a few—each with their own zealots. But for most people, eating for good health is a matter of sticking with a few basic principles, not hopping on an extreme program’s bandwagon. The first principle? Make plant foods the foundation of your diet. Researchers recently reviewed the eating habits and health status of more than 10,000 middle-aged, healthy adults over the course of nearly 30 years. Compared with people who ate the most animal foods, those who ate the most plant foods had a 32 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease, a 25 percent lower risk of dying from any cause, and a 16 percent lower risk having a heart attack, stroke, or other manifestations of heart disease over the course of the study. While earlier studies showing the heart-health benefits of plant foods focused on specific groups, like vegetarians and vegans, this one looked at the general population. This study didn’t distinguish between whole and processed plant foods, but we know that vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, and nuts are better for us in their natural form than they are when stripped of nutrients and fiber, combined with unhealthy additives, and processed and packaged. So choose quinoa or brown rice instead of white rice; sweet potatoes with skin rather than potato chips; spinach and carrots instead of puffed “veggie sticks;” and an apple instead of apple juice. If you eat animal foods like meat and cheese, make them accents rather than the main event. Now that’s a “diet plan” bandwagon we’d be happy to jump on!

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