Eating 6 key foods together may lower heart disease risk, study finds

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A global study led by researchers from McMaster University and elsewhere has revealed a strong association between consuming a combination of six key foods and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in adults.

These foods include fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish, and whole-fat dairy products. The study emphasizes the significance of these dietary components in lowering the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

A Global Perspective

Unlike previous research that primarily focused on Western countries and diets that combined both unhealthy, ultra-processed foods and nutrient-dense foods, this study adopted a global perspective.

It concentrated solely on foods commonly recognized as healthy, providing a comprehensive view of dietary habits across different world regions.

The Global Burden of Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease remains a significant global health concern, responsible for nearly 18 million deaths in 2019, which accounts for 32% of all global deaths.

Among these fatalities, 85% were attributed to heart attacks and strokes. Given this substantial impact on public health, the study sought to explore the relationship between dietary choices and CVD risk on a global scale.

Unique Approach to Diet Scores

The researchers developed the PURE Healthy Diet Score, derived from PHRI’s ongoing Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study, and subsequently replicated it in five independent studies.

Unlike previous diet scores, which included both harmful and protective foods, the PURE Healthy Diet Score exclusively focused on natural, protective foods.

Importance of Protective Foods

The study underscores the importance of protective foods—those known for their health benefits—in reducing CVD risk.

These include fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish, and whole-fat dairy products. By emphasizing these foods in one’s diet, individuals can significantly lower their risk of cardiovascular disease.

Moderation Is Key

The researchers also highlight the importance of moderation in the consumption of certain foods.

While fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes should be consumed in larger quantities, the study suggests that moderate intake of fish and whole-fat dairy is associated with a reduced risk of CVD and mortality.

Moreover, the same health outcomes can be achieved by moderately consuming unrefined whole grains and unprocessed meats.

Recommendations from the PURE Healthy Diet Score

The PURE Healthy Diet Score recommends an average daily intake of fruits (two to three servings), vegetables (two to three servings), nuts (one serving), and dairy (two servings).

It also includes three to four weekly servings of legumes and two to three weekly servings of fish. Possible substitutes comprise one daily serving of whole grains and one daily serving of unprocessed red meat or poultry.


In conclusion, this global study emphasizes the value of consuming a combination of six key foods to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The findings underscore the significance of natural, protective foods and moderation in achieving better heart health.

As cardiovascular disease continues to be a major global health concern, adopting a diet rich in these essential components can contribute to healthier and longer lives for individuals worldwide.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about how eating eggs can help reduce heart disease risk, and herbal supplements could harm your heart rhythm.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about how drinking milk affects risks of heart disease and cancer, and results showing DASH diet is good for your blood pressure, and vegetable diet may reduce heart disease risk.

The research findings can be found in the European Heart Journal.

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