An apple a day keeps the doctor away. No, really—it actually does, according to new research. Turns out that a daily apple habit can slash your heart disease risk nearly in half, according to a new study in the Journal of Functional Foods.
Researchers at The Ohio State University recruited 51 healthy people between the ages of 40 and 60 and split them into three groups: one group ate an apple every day for four weeks, another took an antioxidant supplement extracted from apples, and the third group were given placebos.
The results: Eating an apple a day lowered blood oxidation of LDL (or “bad” cholesterol) in the blood by 40% compared to people on the placebo. Supplement users also had lower levels, but not as significant as apple eaters. And lowering LDL is key, of course, because high levels can lead to atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries that can cause heart attack or stroke.
What makes this fruit so mighty? Apples pack a powerful punch of polyphenol antioxidants, which could be what makes them so effective at blocking oxidation, says study author Robert DiSilvestro, PhD, a professor of human nutrition at Ohio State.
But sticking to apples—and only apples—isn’t the answer. “With antioxidants, getting a variety is good because they don’t all work the same way,” he says. “Apples are not the only thing that lowers LDL oxidation, but they were a pretty big effector; like with most things in health, a balanced diet is the best approach,” says DiSilvestro.
So in addition to upping your apple habit, here’s what else to eat to protect your ticker:
Fish Despite the recent study knocking omega-3 fatty acid supplements’ ability to prevent heart disease, a new Harvard study found that getting your omega-3s from eating actual fish is linked to a lower risk of heart failure. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fatty fish—including salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna—per week.
Coffee When researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center analyzed a number of previous coffee studies, they found drinking about two servings of coffee a day reduced heart failure risk by 11%.
Milk Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to a 64% higher risk of heart attack and an 81% higher risk of death from heart disease, according to recent research from Denmark. In addition to taking in some sun, opt for foods rich in the sunshine vitamin, like salmon, eggs, and mushrooms, and milk. (Find more ways to get some D here.)
Produce A new study in The American Journal of Medicine found that women who ate seven serving of fruits and vegetables a day had a 20% lower risk of having a heart attack than women who ate only 2.4 daily servings. Bottom line: You can’t go wrong loading up on fruits and veggies. (Except of course, if they’re loaded with pesticides.