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Results from a recent study that lasted more than 25 years and involved more than 80,000 women ages 30 to 55 revealed that those who eat a lot of red meat—along with processed meats and high-fat dairy products—have a higher risk of developing heart disease.

Specifically, said researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, women who consume a diet high in red meat experience more heart attacks and have a higher death rate from heart disease when compared with those who tend to consume leaner protein sources such as fish, poultry, nuts and low-fat dairy products.

The data confirm previous findings about the relationship between diet and heart disease, and scientists hope that more studies like this one will increase awareness about the importance of developing healthy eating habits. Among the recommendations were simple changes such as swapping ham and cheese for a peanut butter and banana sandwich, and opting for veggie burgers instead of beef.

In addition to promoting heart health, a diet that includes plenty of lean protein sources as well as fiber-rich fruits, nuts, vegetables and whole grains has been shown to support optimal weight management and healthy blood sugar, both of which may help combat the high rates of obesity and obesity-related disease so prominent in the United States.

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A lot of folks these days are trying to make smarter choices about what they eat. Why? Because the reality is that everything is related to what we put on our plate—digestive problems, cholesterol, weight gain—and statistics show that as a country our poor eating habits have been the driving force behind a rise in obesity and obesity-related disease that has reached epidemic proportions.

In an effort to lose weight and improve their health, many Americans are paying more and more attention to food labels, and it seems their attentiveness is paying off. Experts recently analyzed data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that people who look at things like ingredients, serving size and nutrition facts are likely to be healthier than their non-label-reading counterparts.

Specifically, label readers consume fewer calories and more fiber in their daily diet, along with less sugar, sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol, and as a result they tend to be slimmer and in better shape overall. Health experts hope that as more and more people start paying attention to labels, food manufacturers will do their part and clearly display important nutrition information. So here’s to smart reading and smart eating!

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