Although more research is needed to confirm these benefits, "these data are important from a public health perspective because these fruits can be readily incorporated into the habitual diet," the study concluded.
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, noted that this was a "huge study that followed women for a long period of time. Women who ate three or more servings of strawberries and blueberries per week decreased their heart attack risk by one-third. This is pretty compelling."
Steinbaum's advice to both women and men is to include berries in their diet, and make them part of their daily fruit and vegetable fill.
One serving of blueberries or strawberries equals about one cup.
Dana Greene, a nutritionist in Boston, regularly tells her patients to consume more fruits and vegetables, including berries.
"They are so good for you," Greene said. Besides flavonoids, berries also are loaded with other nutrients, including vitamin C, potassium and folate.
"I tell all patients to make sure that half of their plate is filled with fruits and vegetables, especially richly colored ones like blueberries and strawberries," Greene said. "Berries can also help people lose weight and maintain that loss because they feel fuller faster. There is no downside."
The study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the U.K. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
What does a heart attack look like in women? Find out at the American Heart Association.
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