Foods naturally red, blue, and purple contain powerful anthocyanin antioxidants widely believed to benefit the heart and blood vessels. And now there’s proof that eating three or more servings of strawberries and blueberries per week may help women reduce their risk of a heart attack by one-third—according to a large study of women aged between 25 and 42 registered with the Nurses’ Health Study II. Scientists from the University of East Anglia in collaboration with the Harvard School of Public Health say anthocyanins in berries may help dilate arteries and counter the build-up of plaque. “We have shown that even at an early age, eating more of these fruits may reduce risk of a heart attack later in life. This is the first study to look at the impact of diet in younger and middle-aged women,” says the lead researcher.
The American Heart Association recommends at least 4.5 cups per day of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy lifestyle that can help avoid risks for heart disease and stroke. Eating enough fruits and vegetables also has other benefits: the recommendation to reduce cancer risk is the same.