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The Mediterranean Diet bases every meal on certain heart-healthy ingredients.

The Mediterranean Diet bases every meal on certain heart-healthy ingredients.

If you're trying to eat better but just can't resist certain temptations, there's some good news for you. A new study from the European Society of Cardiology found that including healthy foods in a person's diet can benefit heart health more than simply avoiding unhealthy ones.

The study included over 15,000 people in 39 countries and compared the health effects of the Mediterranean and Western diets. According to the study, the former features certain healthy ingredients while the latter only cuts out unhealthy foods. It found that the Mediterranean Diet could reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in people who already have heart disease.

The research, published in the European Heart Journal, found that heart attacks, strokes and death were less frequent in study participants who followed this diet, compared to those who only stopped eating unhealthy foods.

"Eating a healthy diet seems to have protective effects, but unhealthy foods don't seem to cause any harm," Dr. Ralph Stewart, lead researcher and cardiologist at Auckland City Hospital in New Zealand, told HealthDay News.

In a press release, Stewart also said that these findings aren't meant to encourage people to eat all the unhealthy foods they want. The message is that foods included in the Mediterranean Diet are helpful in decreasing the risk of heart attack and stroke, and the Western tradition of simply avoiding unhealthy foods isn't as effective. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, a Mediterranean Diet bases every meal on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, beans, nuts legumes, seeds, herbs and spices. Fish and seafood are also emphasized, eaten at least twice a week, with moderate portions of poultry, cheese, eggs and yogurt.

One part of this diet that makes it so heart-healthy is the lack of red meat and sweets, which are consumed only a few times a month at most. Outside of these eating habits, the Mediterranean Diet also encourages a certain lifestyle that is full of physical and social activities.

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