An apple a day could really keep the doctor away!
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, they say – and researchers say there’s some truth to that.
Apples, along with berries, grapes and tea, protect heart health when consumed daily.
Scientists now advise people to consume the equivalent of an apple, some berries and two cups of tea a day.
This combination contains approximately 500 mg of flavan-3-ol — a ‘bioactive’ compound said to be good for your heart.
A review of more than 150 studies concluded that the chemical, which is also found in red wine and dark chocolate, can improve blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Professor Gunter Kuhnle, a nutrition expert at the University of Reading, said the data showed flavan-3-ols could improve health.
A review of more than 150 studies concluded that flavan-3-ols, which are also found in red wine and dark chocolate, can improve blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains, according to the NHS
• Eat at least 5 servings of various fruits and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruits and vegetables count
• Base your meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains.
• 30 grams of fiber per day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 servings of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole grain biscuits, 2 thick slices of whole grain bread and a large baked potato with skin on
• Have some milk or dairy alternatives (such as soy drinks) by choosing options with lower fat and sugar content
• Eat some beans, legumes, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish each week, one of which should be fatty)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consume them in small quantities
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men per day
Source: NHS Eatwell guide
As it stands, dietary recommendations are focused on preventing deficiencies in essential vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and sugars.
The only non-essential nutrient that people are told to eat based on its health benefits rather than the risk of deficiency is fiber.
Fiber has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, leading UK and US health chiefs to advise eating 30g a day.
But dieticians argue that dietary recommendations should include other health-promoting compounds.
Dozens of studies have highlighted flavan-3-ol’s health benefits in maintaining well-being and preventing disease — which the researchers said made it the “strongest candidate” for research.
International experts, funded by the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, examined data from 157 randomized controlled trials and 15 cohort studies.
The results showed that the bioactive compound was associated with lower blood pressure, which in turn reduced the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
It also improved cholesterol levels, as well as ‘bad’ HDL cholesterol, which can damage the heart if levels are too high.
Flavan-3-ols are also associated with lower blood sugar, reducing the risk of nerve and eye damage.
Dr Kuhnle said: ‘To reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, we recommend consuming 400mg-600mg of flavan-3-ol per day.
‘This equates to a couple of cups of tea, some red or purple berries and an apple.
‘It is far more effective to take your daily allowance as a healthy food or drink than to take a supplement’.
Green tea has the highest flavan-3-ol content per cup (320 mg), followed by black tea (280 mg), blackberries (65 mg per 160 g) and dried cranberries (35 mg per 80 g).
Dark chocolate is also packed with bioactive substances (20mg per 18g), as are red wine (15mg per 150ml glass), apples (15mg per small apple) and blueberries (10mg per 150g).
Scientists now advise people to consume the equivalent of an apple, berries and two cups of tea a day
WHAT ARE FLAVANOLS?
Flavanols are a group of molecules that are naturally found in fruits and vegetables
They are found in many plant-based foods and beverages, such as tea, red wine, blueberries, apples, pears, cherries and peanuts.
They are especially found in the seeds of the cocoa tree — the cocoa bean.
Fermentation, drying and roasting of cocoa beans produces cocoa powder, which is used to make chocolate.
The flavanols in cocoa have been shown to help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, prevent blood clots, and fight cell damage.
Source: Harvard Medical School
The team noted that the health risks of alcohol and products high in fat and sugar, such as dark chocolate, ‘are likely to outweigh the benefits’ of flavan-3-ol.
And they cautioned that their findings refer to flavan-3-ols contained in foods, not supplements.
The latter can cause liver damage and stomach problems when taken in large doses, the researchers said.
The team said they hope the results will help inform doctors, policy makers, public health authorities and the public.
Dr Kuhnle told MailOnline: ‘For most people in the UK it will probably be easy to get to know this as three cups of tea is usually enough.
‘But those who don’t drink (much) tea might want to reconsider [picking] five a day from a group of fruits and vegetables that are rich in flavanols such as apples.
‘Ultimately, it would be great if there was some progress in developing dietary recommendations to include bioactive compounds such as flavanols – but this is likely to be a longer process.’
He added: ‘The impact of consuming that amount of flavanols is broadly comparable to switching to a Mediterranean diet or moderately reducing salt intake – both dietary changes based on official recommendations.’
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