If you’ve been raised on a typical “Western diet” and your doctor is suddenly concerned about your heart health, you may be worried about having to give up your favorite foods.
Rather than following doctor’s orders and denying yourself the foods you love, you choose to do nothing at all.
If that sounds like you, you’re about to hear good news: You can have it both ways.
Researchers were amazed to discover that giving up unhealthy food did not help you avoid heart attack or stroke. But adding healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and nuts greatly decreased the chances of a cardiovascular event.
Over 15,000 people throughout 39 countries around the world who already had heart disease participated in the study. For close to four years, they kept track of what they ate and drank and how often.
Those who ate more “unhealthy” foods such meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy found in a typical Western diet did not increase their chance of heart attack or stroke.
But those who added a high proportion of healthy, “Mediterranean Diet” type foods to what they normally ate—things like fruit and vegetables, nuts, beans and fish—had fewer heart attacks, strokes and death. 
Maybe you’re not worried about heart disease? You should be.
Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. It accounts for 1 out of 7 deaths in the U.S. and someone dies about once every 84 seconds. It’s the number one killer of women, taking more lives than all forms of cancer combined. 
And there’s a simple way to beat those odds.
Switching over to the Mediterranean Diet cuts heart disease by almost half. 
But if you’re not quite ready to leave your burger, fries and shake behind, Mediterranean type foods are easy to add to a Western diet.
- Let’s start with breakfast. Sauté any combination of onion, peppers, tomatoes mushrooms and spinach to add to your scrambled eggs in the morning. Wrap them in a whole grain tortilla for an easy on-the-go meal.
- For lunch, add a vegetable salad—the more colorful the better—with an olive oil dressing and sprinkle of nuts on top. At the very least, simply add a few slices of tomato to your sandwich, and if it’s tuna salad, all the better.
- For dinner, try a stir-fry. Have a fish dinner once a week. Opt for a bowl of chili or black beans and brown rice instead of your normal fare. Not that adventurous? Then add a second vegetable to your plate. Try fresh berries or a baked apple as a dessert.
Making small, simple changes over time will give you major benefits without giving up the foods you enjoy.
 Stewart, Ralph A. H., Wallentin, Lars, Benatar, Jocelyne, et.al. Dietary patterns and the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events in a global study of high-risk patients with stable coronary heart disease. European Heart Journal, 2016
 Mozaffarian D, Benjamin EJ, Go AS, et. al; on behalf of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2016 update: a report from the American Heart Association [published online ahead of print December 16, 2015]. Circulation. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000350.
 American College of Cardiology. “Mediterranean diet cuts heart disease risk by nearly half.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 March 2015