Three or more weekly servings of blueberries and strawberries could cut women's risk of heart attack by a third, according to a new study.
They study published in the journal Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, found that these berries contained high levels of beneficial dietary flavonoids called anthocyanins that may help dilate arteries, combat the buildup of plaque and provide other cardiovascular benefits.
Researchers said that these dietary flavonoids are also found in grapes, wine, blackberries, eggplant and other fruits and vegetables.
While other foods can also benefit heart health, the researchers specifically chose to analyze blueberries and strawberries because they are the most eaten berries in the United States.
"Blueberries and strawberries can easily be incorporated into what women eat every week," senior author Eric Rimm said in a statement.
"This simple dietary change could have a significant impact on prevention efforts," added Rimm, who is also an associate professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts.
Rimm and his team from Harvard School of Public Health in the United States and the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom, conducted a prospective study among 93,600 women between the ages of 25 and 42 who were registered with the Nurses' Health Study II.
The women had completed surveys about their diet every four years for 18 years.
Researchers said that during the study, there were 405 heart attacks. The findings show that women who ate the most blueberries and strawberries were 32 percent less likely to have a heart attack compared to women who ate the berries only once a month or less. What's more, the findings were true even in women who ate a diet rich in other fruits in vegetables.
"We have shown that even at an early age, eating more of these fruits may reduce risk of a heart attack later in life," Aedín Cassidy, lead author and head of the Department of Nutrition at Norwich Medical School of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, United Kingdom, said in a statement.
Researchers said that the findings were independent of other risk factors like age, high blood pressure, family history of heart attack, body mass, exercise, smoking, caffeine or alcohol intake.