Updated: August 26, 2011

Here's one new explanation for why eating a lot of fruits and vegetables is linked to a lower heart-disease risk: Plant foods, including herbs and spices, contain the same anti-inflammatory compound as aspirin -- salicylic acid. (The hardening of the arteries that leads to heart attacks is a chronic inflammatory process.) In a Scottish study comparing vegetarians and nonvegetarians, the nonmeat-eaters had higher blood levels of salicylic acid. Fruits and vegetables with the highest content are broccoli, chili peppers, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, blackberries, cherries, cranberries, dates and plums.

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