Today begins a 10-day diet program prepared by Dr. Jean Mayer, president of Tufts University and nutrition newspaper columnist. It is excerpted from his new book, "Fats, Diet and Your Heart." For the convenience of readers, we will run five installments, each including two days menus, as follows: Today; Sunday, March 16; Thursday, March 20; Sunday, March 23, and Thursday, March 27.

I WISH I could give you a diet or a life style that would guarantee that you'd never have a heart attack. Unfortunately, I can't. But I can tell you that you can reduce the risk of a coronary if you follow a certain type of diet and get regular exercise.

With the right diet and exercise, the development of atherosclerosis (deposits of cholesterol and other fats -- lipids -- on the arterial wall) is slowed. Indeed, for some people the process can be reversed.

I wish I could give you one easy exercise that would ensure a healthy heart. Again I can't. The exercise you need is not just occasional push-ups or a round of golf every other Saturday.

I wish I could reveal one simple dietary trick that would protect your arteries. It would be nice if huge doses of vitamin E were the answer. But there is no convincing evidence that vitamin E has any such effect.

It would be nice if consuming a certain amount of fiber would relieve you of having to think about blood cholesterol. But evidence that fiber is important in prevention of heart attack is missing.

I wish it were true that consuming large amounts of lecithin really would clear cholesterol from the arteries like a dietary Roto Rooter. But all the evidence shows that the only effect is to add calories. I also wish, as an egg lover, that the cholesterol in egg yolks did not count because the lecithin also in the yolks cancels it out. But, alas, experience show this isn't so.

Finally, I wish it were true that the production of cholesterol by the body is automatically decreased by the same amount that is consumed. But, again, although there is some adjustment of cholesterol production in relation to cholesterol intake, the correction is far less than complete. The consumption of large amounts of dietary cholesterol still increases blood cholesterol.

A good anti-coronary regimen is complex and must be based on an understanding of the factors that increase the risk of heart disease. Two main conditions underlie most cases: hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol) and hypertension (high blood pressure). Three other risk factors are almost equally important: lack of physical activity, obesity and diabetes.

These five risk factors are closely related. Four of them -- hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, obesity and diabetes -- also are related to the kind and quantity of food we eat.

So, although I can't offer you a magic formula, I can tell you that if you follow the type of diet that takes these factors into consideration, regularly get the proper kind of exercise,make a consistent effort to keep your weight down, and do not smoke cigarettes, the odds of avoiding or postponing a coronary are considerably improved. This is true even if you have a family history of heart disease.

The following menus and recipes, prepared by dietitian Jeanne Goldberg for Dr. Mayer, are suggested for days one and two of a 10-day diet plan. DAY1: Breakfast: Orange juice Hot whole-wheat cereal with skim milk Toast with margarine Coffee with skim milk Lunch Pea soup Tuna salad sandwich Fresh vegetable sticks Fresh fruit Tea or coffee Afternoon Snack Fresh fruit Dinner Chicken in red wine with carrots and white onions (recipe below) Boiled potato Mixed greens with vinaigrette dressing Whole-wheat bread with margarine Fresh fruit cup Tea or coffee Evening Snack Raisin biscuits Skim milk DAY2: Breakfast Grapefruit half French toast with cinnamon sugar Coffee with skim milk Lunch Thin-sliced lean ham sandwich on dark rye bread Dill pickle spears and celery sticks Fresh fruit Tea or coffee Afternoon Snack Fresh fruit Dinner Sauteed fillet of sole with mushrooms and onions (recipe below) Baked potato Green peas Sliced tomatoes on Lettuce with basil and pepper Bread with margarine Fresh grapes Tea or coffee Evening Snack Dry cereal with sliced banana and skim milk CHICKEN IN RED WINE WITH CARROTS AND WHITE ONIONS (4 servings) (300 calories per serving) 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut in 8 pieces 3 tablespoons oil 1 clove garlic, minced 1/4 teaspoon thyme Salt and pepper to taste 1 cup dry red wine 2 sprigs parsley 12 small white onions, peeled 6 carrots, cut in 1-inch pieces

Clean and dry chicken. Heat oil. Add garlic and saute briefly. Add chicken and brown quickly on all sides. Add seasonings and red wine and simmer until nearly done (about 25 minutes.)

Add vegetables and cook until tender. SAUTEED FILLET OF SOLE WITH MUSHROOMS AND ONIONS (4 servings) (200 calories per serving) 1/4 cup flour Salt and pepper 1/4 teaspoon thyme 1 pound fillet of sole 3 tablespoons oil 1 medium onion, sliced 1 cup sliced mushrooms 1/4 cup white wine

Add seasonings to flour. Dry fillets and lightly dredge in flour. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet. Cook onion until clear. Add mushrooms and cool until tender. Transfer to platter and place in warm oven.

Add remaining oil to skillet. Quickly brown fillets on both sides. Remove to platter with mushrooms and onions. Add white wine and scrape pan to deglaze. Pour sauce over dish and serve.