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How can eating salad help prevent heart disease?

You could have the lowest rate of heart disease of your whole lunch bunch if you choose this for your midday meal: spinach salad with an olive-oil-based dressing.

In a study of healthy women, those who tended to eat lots of leafy greens topped with olive oil had as much as a 45% lower risk of heart disease compared with their salad-eschewing peers.

Researchers examined the women's food choices over an eight-year period and compared their choices with their risk of developing heart disease and found that certain foods seemed to buoy heart health. The women who consumed at least two cups of leafy greens or two and a half tablespoons of olive oil each day had the lowest heart disease rates of all -- most likely thanks to the B vitamins, healthy fats, and antioxidant vitamins like C, E and beta carotene in these nutrition superstars.

Nutrients in leafy greens and olive oil may help with everything from lowering signs of heart-harming inflammation to preventing plaque buildup in the arteries and guarding against the oxidative damage that contributes to heart disease. Olive oil and leafy greens aren't the only way to a healthy heart. In the recent study, cabbage and raw tomatoes also were associated with lower rates of heart disease. And, in general, fresh vegetables can do wonders for your heart and overall health. So don't be conservative at the salad bar. The more vegetable variety, the better.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.