Despite the wealth of studies that suggest eating a plant-based diet, hitting the gym, or even consuming certain foods could lower our risk of heart disease, it’s still the leading cause of death in the United States. As a result, scientists have continued their quest to find a solution. 

A recent paper suggests that reducing your daily caloric intake by just 300 calories could minimize your risk of heart disease. Researchers drew from data collected by the Comprehensive Assessment of Long-term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy (CALERIE) study, which attempted to determine the effects of long-term calorie restriction. Throughout the two-year study, 117 middle-aged, normal or slightly overweight participants reduced their calorie intake by 12 percent on average—and scientists observed major health benefits.

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At first glance, the research suggests that weight loss is the main reason for the observed health improvements. Participants lost an average of 16.5 pounds, which led to improved cardiometabolic factors, such as a decrease in blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and improved insulin resistance and metabolic rates. 

However, further analysis suggests that weight loss wasn’t the primary reason for improved heart health. According to researchers, weight loss only accounted for 25 percent of the participants' cardiovascular health, so what’s behind the other 75 percent? 

David Sinclair, a genetics professor at Harvard University, suggests the findings support the notion that calorie restriction can fend off something we’re all want to avoid—aging. "Aging isn't considered a medical condition—it's just too common. Hopefully, in the near future, we won't accept it," Sinclair told NPR. "That's what calorie restriction offers: It compresses the period of sickness. People one day will hopefully live into their 90s in a healthy way and pass away more quickly and [less] painfully than we do now."

So, reducing your daily calorie intake may help with age-related health issues (sadly, aging increases your risk of heart disease). Although it seems like an easy fix, cutting 300 calories from your diet can be harder than expected. Here are three tips to make it a bit easier! 

Cut Empty Calories 

Excess calories often come from empty calories, like alcohol and added sugars. To reduce your daily calorie count, cut out things like processed foods and sugary sodas and shift your focus to eating whole foods (think: whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables).

Related: 5 Very Easy Ways to Slash Empty Calories

Swap Out Your Oil 

Olive oil is full of healthy fats, omega-3s, and polyphenols. But, like other fats, it’s also loaded with calories. Though there’s nothing wrong with using olive oil, if you’re dousing your veggies before roasting them or pouring an extra glug on your salad, you could be adding way more calories than expected. Each tablespoon has 119 calories, so keep that in mind while drizzling. An easy way to cut extra calories—without sacrificing taste or texture—is using an olive oil cooking spray (just make sure olive oil is the only ingredient listed!) 

Cut Late-Night Snacking 

As tempting as bowl of your favorite ice cream is at 9 p.m., late-night snacking can add hundreds of calories to your daily calorie intake. If you have a sweet tooth, try one of our low-calorie desserts for a treat with less than 150 calories per serving.

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