The significant role of diet in heart health cannot be disputed. We know, from years of extensive research, that the food choices we make have a huge impact on the risk factors that lead to heart disease.

Patients’ dietary choices are directly associated with whether or not they will develop atherosclerosis, or plaque in the artery. We also know diet can be the precursor to other high-risk disease conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.

That said, with the right dietary choices, these chronic diseases, and ultimately heart disease, can be prevented. As much as we can establish the link between food choices and disease, we can also extrapolate that food choices are significantly instrumental in prevention.

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Notice that I do not say “diet.” What I am talking about is particular food choices. Specific foods can actually prevent disease and be the bedrock of a preventive strategy against the development of cardiovascular disease. And guess what food comes out on top? It’s a food group you may recently have been led to believe is bad, but think again: whole grains.

As fads come and go, researchers have consistently observed the critical role whole grains play in the prevention of heart disease. A recent trial showed eating at least 28 grams of whole grains every day resulted in a 5% lower risk of dying over a 24- to 26-year study period, and a 9% lower risk of dying from any condition related to cardiovascular disease.1

It is the whole grain that does the trick, and this heart-healthy power has been traced directly to the bran. The bran is, essentially, the skin on the outside of the whole grain. This part of the grain is rich in antioxidants, B vitamins, and fiber.

The bran had the largest effect on reducing mortality from cardiovascular disease. Another study showed that those who replaced a daily serving of red meat with a whole grain (containing the bran) decreased cardiovascular death rates by 20%.2