Good news, fruit lovers: It turns out the food group has some strong associations with heart health.
In a large study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers in China found that people who consumed fruit regularly had lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels, as well as fewer instances of heart problems, including strokes.
For the study, researchers surveyed about 500,000 adults between the ages of 30 and 79 in China over a four-year period and asked them about their eating habits.
The researchers had previously noted that in other populations, increased fresh fruit consumption was linked with a lower risk of heart disease. Cardiovascular diseases (specifically coronary artery disease and stroke) are the leading causes of death around the world. In China, an estimated one in five adults have cardiovascular disease.
The new study had some positive takeaways: The researchers found that those who consumed fruit more frequently had a lower risk of cardiovascular problems than those who ate it less often. While only about 18% of everyone in the study group reported that they consumed fruit daily, the researchers found a roughly 40% lower risk of death linked with heart problems in these people compared with those who ate it rarely or never. The daily fruit eaters also had a 34% lower risk for major coronary events, like a heart attack, compared to those who ate fresh fruit rarely or never.
As for other eating habits, about 95% of participants reported eating fresh vegetables on a daily basis, which made it difficult to study that association with cardiovascular health.
For now, the results are just an association, so it doesn’t show that eating fruit daily causes lower instances of heart disease. But considering the nutritional benefits of adding fruit to your diet, it surely couldn’t hurt to reach for that banana or orange as a snack.