A study conducted by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine found that a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes may be healthier for the heart than a conventional meat-based diet. Published in the May 3, 2005 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, the 4-week randomized trial compared two diets that included different quantities of vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains, but identical levels of total fat, saturated fat, protein, carbohydrates and cholesterol. The adults who consumed high amounts of veggies, fruits, legumes and whole grains showed greater improvements in total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels than the adults who ate low amounts of those foods. The authors concluded, “In this study, emphasis on including nutrient-dense plant-based foods, consistent with recently revised national guidelines, increased the total- and LDL-cholesterol-lowering effect of a low-fat diet.”

Here’s the take-home message: “At least over the short-term, greater improvements in LDL and total cholesterol are an additional benefit of diets high in vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains.”