It’s long been said that an apple a day keeps the doctor away – but you should add a cup of tea, some broccoli, a handful of blueberries and an orange to that, because a new study suggests these foods will make you live longer.
The somewhat unusual combination provides a high daily dose of flavonoids, which are naturally-occurring compounds found in some food and drink.
The latest research, from Edith Cowan University in Australia, suggests consuming a high amount of flavonoids each day protects against heart disease and cancer, therefore lowering a person’s overall risk of death.
Researchers from ECU’s School of Medical and Health Sciences analysed the diets of more than 53,000 people over 23 years and found those who regularly consumed “moderate to high” amounts of flavonoid-rich foods were less likely to die from cancer or heart disease than others.
The study found a lower risk of death in all who ate flavonoid-rich foods, but the protective effect appeared to be strongest for those at high risk of chronic diseases due to cigarette smoking and those who drank more than two standard alcoholic drinks a day.
Participants consuming about 500mg of total flavonoids each day had the lowest risk of a cancer or heart disease-related death.
“It’s important to consume a variety of different flavonoid compounds found in different plant based food and drink,” lead researcher Dr Nicola Bondonno said.
“This is easily achievable through the diet: one cup of tea, one apple, one orange, 100g of blueberries, and 100g of broccoli would provide a wide range of flavonoid compounds and over 500mg of total flavonoids”.
While the research established an association between flavonoid consumption and lower risk of death, why this happens is still unclear, Dr Bondonno said.
“Alcohol consumption and smoking both increase inflammation and damage blood vessels, which can increase the risk of a range of diseases,” she explained. “Flavonoids have been shown to be anti-inflammatory and improve blood vessel function, which may explain why they are associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease and cancer.”
Additional research is needed to look more closely at which types of heart disease and cancers were most protected by flavonoids, the researchers said.
But until then, it won’t hurt to add a tea-fruit-salad-broccoli combo to your shopping list.