The jury is out on which diet is most beneficial to heart health, but a recent comparison of three popular diets has found that all three reduce heart disease. Researchers say it’s likely not the type of diet, but the quality of the foods eaten that makes a difference.

Investigators examined the effects of three diets emphasizing different macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, or unsaturated fats – on a biomarker that reflects heart injury. All three diets were found to reduce heart cell damage and inflammation.

The takeaway may be that macronutrients matter less than simply eating healthy foods, reported corresponding author Stephen Juraschek, M.D., Ph.D., Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Our findings support flexibility in food selection for people attempting to eat a healthier diet and should make it easier.”

The study diets included at least four to six servings of fruits and vegetables a day, unlike the typical American diet, which averages less than two daily servings of these foods.

Juraschek said he hopes that the study’s findings will resonate with clinicians when they provide dietary counsel. “There are multiple debates about dietary carbs and fat, but the message from our data is clear: eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and high in fiber that is restricted in red meats, sugary beverages, and sweets, will not only improve cardiovascular risk factors, but also reduce direct injury to the heart,” he said.

The study was published in the International Journal of Cardiology.