Adding international flair to your diet could quickly lead to a healthier heart.

After only 3 months of eating a Mediterranean diet, study participants reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by approximately 15%. A Mediterranean diet emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, low-fat dairy, and olive oil. Planning your meals around these items may be even better for your heart than a low-fat diet.

In a recent study, two groups of participants with moderate risk factors for cardiovascular disease were placed on a Mediterranean diet or a low-fat diet for 3 months. By the end of the study, members of both groups experienced improvements in body mass index (BMI), blood lipids, and other risk factors. While those in the low-fat diet group reduced their risk for cardiovascular disease by an estimated 9%, participants in the Mediterranean-diet group lowered their disease risk by approximately 15%.

The abundant disease-fighting nutrients found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, and fish make a Mediterranean diet one of the healthiest around. Whole grains are rich in fiber, magnesium, and B-vitamins; fruits and vegetables are filled with heart-healthy antioxidants; and olive oil, fish, and nuts provide artery-friendly mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Make these delicious and healthful foods the foundation of your diet. In a few short months, you'll be on your way to reaping the long-term benefits.

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