Upgrade: 5 foods to start eating now if you want to live a longer life

It’s true: An apple a day may keep the doctor away.

At least, if you combine it with other flavonoid-rich foods and beverages.

A study of more than 53,000 Danish adults over 23 years released Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications reveals that consuming items containing flavonoids — a type of plant-based bioactive compound — may reduce your risk of dying from heart disease and cancer. This was particularly true of people who smoked and drank more than two alcoholic beverages a day.

“These findings are important as they highlight the potential to prevent cancer and heart disease by encouraging the consumption of flavonoid-rich foods, particularly in people at high risk of these chronic diseases,” lead researcher Dr Nicola Bondonno said in a statement. “But it’s also important to note that flavonoid consumption does not counteract all of the increased risk of death caused by smoking and high alcohol consumption. By far the best thing to do for your health is to quit smoking and cut down on alcohol.

So how much do you need to consume to reap those benefits? About 500 mg of a variety of flavonoid-rich foods, the researchers found — also noting that “these threshold levels exist well within daily dietary achievable limits.” That would mean in a day you could consume “one cup of tea, one apple, one orange, 100 g of blueberries, and 100 g of broccoli” and in doing so would get “most of the flavonoid subclasses and over 500 mg of total flavonoids,” the authors write.

Bondonno tells Marketwatch that, “Flavonoids are found in all plant-based foods and beverages. They are particularly high in fruit, tea, dark chocolate, soya products and red wine (although recommending people to drink more wine is probably not a good idea).” You can find a list of other substances that contain flavonoids here.

This isn’t the first study to conclude that flavonoids are good for you (though this study is a particularly robust one): A 2014 study concluded that regular consumption of these substances “is associated with reduced risk of a number of chronic diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and neurodegenerative disorders.”

Of course, before you make any changes to your diet, it’s important to contact your doctor, and the study authors caution that flavonoids aren’t a cure-all. But they could boost your health, as the authors conclude in the study: “These findings highlight the potential to improve population health through dietary recommendations to ensure adequate consumption of flavonoid-rich foods, particularly in these high-risk populations.”

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