The First-Ever Guidelines for Daily Plant Compound Intake Are Here

cup of tea

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Key Takeaways

  • Flavan-3-ols are plant compounds that help support many aspects of our health, including our hearts.
  • For the first time, guidelines have been released detailing how many flavan-3-ols people should eat every day to reap the benefits.
  • The best source of flavan-3-ols is black and green tea.
  • Apples, cocoa, and berries also contain flavan-3-ols.

There are plenty of nutritional guidelines for well-known nutrients like salt, sugar, and fat, but organizations like the USDA and American Heart Association haven’t offered up any guidance on plant compounds: nutrients that have health benefits, but are not necessary to keep our bodies functioning.

While we may not need these compounds, clinical trials show that the consumption of a variety of plant compounds might be linked to positive health outcomes. For instance, one such set of compounds, called flavan-3-ols, can help support heart health and keep blood sugar levels in check.

To address this gap in dietary guidance, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) released new clinical guidelines for the recommended daily amounts of flavan-3-ols. The guidelines are now published in the journal Advances in Nutrition, marking the first-ever recommendation for any plant compound in the United States.

“To date, dietary guidelines have focused on compounds to prevent nutrient deficiencies,” Kristi M. Crowe-White, PhD, RD, an author of the guidelines, nutrition scientist, and associate professor at the University of Alabama, told Verywell. One example you probably know is the guideline for vitamin C intake to prevent scurvy. “This is the first guideline to focus on improvements in health, acknowledging the importance of health promotion and disease prevention. This is the next frontier for nutrition science research.”

The guidelines suggest individuals try to get 400 to 600 milligrams (mg) of flavan-3-ols every day.

Why Should You Eat More Flavan-3-ols?

According to Crowe-White, flavan-3-ols have the ability to reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress in the body can be caused by many factors, including exposure to certain pollutants, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, and smoking cigarettes. Too much oxidative stress is linked to cell and tissue damage. Over time, this damage may be linked to the development of conditions like certain cancers and heart health concerns.

When researchers analyzed 157 randomized controlled trials and 15 cohort studies, there was some evidence that the consumption of flavan-3-ols may:

What Kind of Foods Contain Flavan-3-ols?

While people might want to jump straight to taking a supplement to get more flavan-3-ols, experts don’t suggest taking this workaround.

According to the study’s authors, the new guidelines are food-based, and “not a recommendation for flavan-3-ol supplements.”

Part of the reason why supplemental forms of the compounds are not recommended is that the products can cause gastrointestinal irritation and/or liver injury—especially when they are taken in excess or on an empty stomach.

“Considering the potential risk of adverse events with high doses of flavan-3-ol in supplement form, it’s recommended to prioritize food sources of these compounds first,” Hailey Crean, MS, RD, CDCES, a dietitian based in Massachusetts who focuses on diabetes management, told Verywell.

True teas (like black, green, and oolong), apples, berries, cocoa, and red wine are natural sources of flavan-3-ols.

There are a few eating habits that can help you hit that recommended 400 to 600 milligram range:

  • Drink one cup of brewed green or black tea (one 8-ounce serving contains 277-319 mg of flavan-3-ols)
  • Snack on a cup of blackberries (one cup contains 64 mg of flavan-3-ols)
  • Add dried cranberries to meals like granola and oatmeal (1/2 cup of dried cranberries contain 34 mg flavan-3-ols)
  • If you consume alcohol, opt for a glass of red wine instead of white (1 5-ounce glass of red wine contains 17 mg of flavan-3-ols)
  • Have 3 ounces of dark chocolate for a sweet treat (3 squares contain 19 mg flavan-3-ols)
  • Top salads and sandwiches with sliced apples (one small apple has 15 mg of flavan-3-ols)

What This Means For You

Getting 400-600 mg of flavan-3-ols in your diet daily may offer some health benefits, including for your heart. Experts recommend getting these plant compounds from food sources like tea and berries instead of supplements (which can have side effects and risks).

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Crowe-White KM, Evans LW, Kuhnle GGC, et al. Flavan-3-ols and cardiometabolic health: First ever dietary bioactive guideline. Adv Nutr. 2022;13(6):2070-2083. doi:10.1093/advances/nmac105

  3. Pizzino G, Irrera N, Cucinotta M, et al. Oxidative stress: harms and benefits for human health. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017;2017:8416763. doi:10.1155/2017/8416763

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