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The age-old saying might actually be true: An apple a day really could keep the doctor away.

Researchers say that daily consumption of apples, berries, grapes and tea can promote heart health.

Experts funded by the US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics investigated data from 157 random controlled trials and 15 cohort studies on the health benefits of flavan-3-ols — a “bioactive” compound that’s good for your heart. Many previous studies have proven that the compound helps maintain well-being and prevent diseases, so experts found it to be the “strongest candidate” for study.

Data showed that the flavan-3-ols — also found in red wine and dark chocolate — can improve blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. The lower blood sugar levels promoted from the compound reduces the risk of nerve and eye damage. 

Scientists are now advising people to eat the equivalent of an apple, some berries and two cups of tea every day — a combination that contains about 500 milligrams of flavan-3-ols.

“To reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, we recommend consuming 400 milligrams to 600 milligrams of flavan-3-ols, per day,” Professor Gunter Kuhnle, a nutrition expert at the University of Reading, told Daily Mail.

Green tea contains the highest amount of flavan-3-ols at 320 milligrams per cup, followed by black tea (280 milligrams), blackberries (65 milligrams per 160 grams) and dried cranberries (35 milligrams per 80 grams). Although alcohol and dark chocolate also contain high levels of the bioactive compound, the researchers note that the health risks from the high fat and sugar content “is likely to outweigh the benefits” from flavan-3-ols. Other alternatives include apples (15 milligrams per small apple) and blueberries (10 milligrams per 150 grams).

Heartbeat line on red apple and stethoscope, healthy heart diet concept background
Scientists are now advising people to eat the equivalent of an apple, some berries and two cups of tea every day.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

But doctors warn against taking a supplement to fulfill your daily flavan-3-ols intake.

“It is far more effective to take in your daily amount as healthy food or beverages than to take a supplement,” Kuhnle emphasized.

Taking supplements in high doses for the compound can lead to stomach problems and liver damage.

Dietitians have recently pushed for dietary recommendations to include health components other than just focusing on deficiencies of the essential vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and sugars. As of now, the only nonessential people are typically recommended based on benefits rather than deficiencies is fiber, which is linked with lower risk of heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.

Nutritionist with healthy fruit, vegetable and measuring tape working, Right nutrition and diet concept
Doctors warn against taking a supplement to fulfill your daily flavan-3-ols intake.
Getty Images/EyeEm

“Ultimately, it would be great if there could be some movement in the development of dietary recommendations and an inclusion of bioactive compounds such as flavanols — but this is likely to be a longer process,” Kuhnle said.

“The impact of consuming that amount of flavanols is broadly comparable with switching to a Mediterranean diet or a moderate reduction in salt intake — both dietary changes that are based on official recommendations,” he said.

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