You know those amazing colors you see on various fruits and vegetables. The bright reds and oranges, the yellows that catch your eye, or the vivid greens that are as lush as the Amazon Rain Forest! Well, thanks to phytonutrients called flavonoids, we get to experience our food in technicolor.
What Are Flavonoids?
As mentioned before, flavonoids are phytonutrients, which are plant chemicals that are found in about all fruits and vegetables. Together with carotenoids, they provide the intense colors in fruits and vegetables. Out of all the phytonutrients, flavonoids are the biggest class of phytonutrients with around 6,000 types. The most well-known flavonoids are quercetin and kaempferol. Many studies have used flavonoids to back up their research that claims many health advantages from a diet that is abundant in fruits and vegetables.
Who’s Who in The Flavonoid Family?
Flavonoids are a fraction of the polyphenol group of phytonutrients. Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine have used polyphenols for many years as a form of skin protection, brain function, blood sugar, blood pressure regulation as well as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.
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There are various important groups of flavonoids such as anthocyanidins, flavones, flavonols, flavanols, flavonones and isoflavones. Inside the flavanol subgroup there are even more subgroups, which each subgroup and every kind of flavonoid handles its own specific set of advantages, actions and foods that they come from.
Here are a few flavonoid groups, where they can be located and their health benefits:
Anthocyanidins: These comprise of pelargondin, peoidin, malvidin and cyanidin. Excellent sources of anthocyanidins are red, purple and blue berries, pomegranates, plums, red wine as well as red and purple grapes. Anthocyanidins are linked to heart health and antioxidant effects. Also, anthocyanidins help with obesity and diabetes prevention.
Flavones: Luteolin and apigenin make part of this subgroup. You can find flavones in celery, parsley, many herbs and hot peppers. Flavones are affiliated with general antioxidant benefits and the delaying effects it has when the body is metabolizing drugs.
Flavonones: These consist of hesperetin, eriodictyol and naringenin. Citrus fruits contain a lot of flavonones. They are linked to cardiovascular health, relaxation and general antioxidant as well as anti-inflammatory activity.
Isoflavones: Within this subgroup you can find genistein, glycitein and daidzein. Soybeans, soy products and legumes have the highest concentration of isoflavones than any other fruits and vegetables. This subgroup are phytoestrogens, which means that they are chemicals that behave like the hormone estrogen.
Some research indicates that they might be advantageous in reducing the risk of hormonal cancers, like breast, endometrial and prostate cancers. However, the results of these studies have been very mixed and are not concrete. In some studies, isoflavones performed as both antioxidants as well as oxidants, hence the fact their role on cancer is quite confusing. Currently, isoflavones are being examined as a method to medicate menopausal symptoms. *Getting more folate in your diet helps to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Flavonols: This is a huge subgroup of flavonoids that consists of quercetin and kaempferol. You can acquire these phytonutrients in onions, leeks, broccoli sprouts, kale, broccoli, tea, beans, berries and apples. If you suffer from hay fever or hives, quercetin can help. This is due to the fact that quercetin is an anti-histamine that can relieve these symptoms, as well as acting as an anti-inflammatory. Kaempferol and other flavonols are known for their immense anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities that prevent chronic disease from occurring.
Flavanols: There are three essential kinds of flavanols which are monomers (mostly known as catechins), dimers and polymers. You can find flavanols in teas, cocoa, grapes, berries, apples, fava beans and red wine. Green and white teas have loads of catechins, while dimers are found in black teas and are linked to reducing cholesterol. Researchers believe catechins can help chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms. Additionally, catechins are beneficial for cardiovascular and neurological health.
What Are the Health Benefits of Flavonoids?
You Could Live Longer
A 25-year-old study that was published in 1995 in the Archives of Internal Medicine journal examined men from seven countries and came to the conclusion that flavonoid consumption was connected to longevity. Apparently, eating food with lots of flavonoids are responsible for 25% of the difference in mortality rates from disease such as coronary disease and cancer.
You Could be Slimmer
Flavonoids have the ability to relieve inflammation and lower the levels of appetite by reducing the hormone responsible for hunger pangs, which is leptin. Studies on mice found that when mutations in leptin were made, the mice gained weight. They were used as example studies for diabetes and obesity research.
You Could Have a Healthier Heart
Due to its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, Mind flavonoids are linked to cardiovascular disease prevention. Flavonoids can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis since it protects LDL cholesterol, which is the bad cholesterol, from free radical damage.
Also, flavonoids can improve the quality of the blood vessel walls. Some research has seen that individuals who have a higher flavonoid intake, usually have a lower cardiovascular risk. This is evident in many group studies, which includes postmenopausal women, male smokers and middle-aged men as well as women.
You Could Prevent Diabetes
Current research has shown that sufferers of type 2 diabetes can benefit from flavones used in Momental Mind. Men with type 2 diabetes were given a flavonoid rich spice mix to hamburger meat to consume. The results after ingestion revealed an improvement in vascular function for many hours afterwards, the spice mix was a combination of rosemary, garlic, ginger, black pepper and oregano, which are spices that contain flavonoids. The same effects have been noticed in foods such as grape juice, chocolate, pomegranate juice and soy foods.
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You Could Prevent Cancer
The research results to these studies are not confirmed, since the outcome was mixed. When studies were done on animals, the results were positive with lung, mouth, stomach, colon, skin and other forms of cancer. However, when it came to human studies, the results were not as consistent as they were on animals. Needless to say, more research has to be done, but there were very good studies regarding breast and stomach cancers.
In 2003, the British Journal of Cancer published a study that found women with increased levels of flavone intake had a lower risk of developing breast cancer. Furthermore, studies on kaempferol intakes also lowered gastric cancer risk. However, another study that was published in the same journal did not make any association with the reduction of gastric cancer due to high levels of kaempferol, but with flavonones.
Although flavonoids have strong antioxidant activity, they make a weak appearance in the bloodstream when they are compared to other antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E. This could make them not the anti-oxidant powerhouse some studies claim they are to be, hence lowering their cancer fighting effects.
You Could Be More Mentally Alert
The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in flavonoids may help to protect you from neurogenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. When studies were conducted in animals, there was a correlation between high flavonoid levels and a reduction in the risk of these diseases. However, human studies again proved inconclusive results, which left researchers with doubts on high levels of flavonoids proving favorably for the prevention of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
For instance, a massive study that was published in the European Journal of Epidemiology in 2000 revealed that in a group of elderly men and women, the participants that had the highest levels of flavonoids were 50 percent less likely of developing dementia within the next five years compared to those with the lowest levels of flavonoid intake. On the contrary, research published in 2002 in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) came to the conclusion that with men, the only group that had a lowered risk of Alzheimer’s when there was an increase in flavonoid intake were smokers. Similar results were noticed in regards to Parkinson’s disease, based on a study published in 1997 in Archives of Neurology.
The reason why flavonoids are believed to be beneficial for the prevention of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s is because they may increase the blood flow to the brain flow, which improves cognitive function. Another study published in 2007 in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that elderly men and women who had a high flavonoid intake had better cognitive abilities when the study began and a lot less age-related cognitive deterioration over the next 10 years compared to those with a lower flavonoid intake.
A List of Foods with Flavonoids
Eating the right foods is the best start to getting the phytonutrients, such as flavonoids in your diet. The antioxidant activity role they provide as well as the benefits to cardiovascular health can play a significant part in your general well-being for years to come. Here is a list of foods to consume for optimal flavonoids on your plate and in your glass.
Vegetables Are Always a Good Place to Start
We had to start here, since it’s the obvious one. Also, you can’t really go wrong here since most veggies, especially the green and red vegetables, have high quantities of flavonoids. Lookout for vegetables that are part of the nightshade family, such as peppers, tomatoes and eggplants, because they are loaded with flavonols, quercetin and the subgroup of flavones luteolin. In order to reach high levels of quercetin, consume onions, specifically red and green onions. Celery and artichokes are high in the flavones apigenin and luteolin, while snap beans, okra and broccoli are high in flavonols including quercetin, kaempferol and myricetin.
Berries Can Boost Your Flavonoid Consumption
Most berries are high in flavonoids, such as red, blue and purple berries. The darker and riper the berries, the more likely the higher the flavonoid they have, though processing these fruits could reduce levels. Blueberries and cranberries are the best source of the flavonol groups which includes quercetin and myricetin. Blackberries and black grapes are loaded with flavonoids epicatechin and catechin. Additionally, raspberries, cherries and red grapes have increased levels of anthocyanidins and cyanidin.
Tree Fruits Have Higher Levels of Flavonoids
Fruits that grow on trees, rather than bushes and vines have levels of flavonoids. A good example are bananas because they contain high quantities of anthocyanidins such as cyanidin and delphinidin. Citrus fruits like lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges are high in the flavonone group of flavonoids such as hesperetin, naringenin and eriodictyol. Apples, pears, plums, peaches and apricots are members of the rosaceae family and are high in catechin as well as epicatechin when consumed raw with the skin on.
Mix It Up with Some Spices
Besides being flavouring agents, some spices are packed with specific types of flavonoids. Although they are consumed in smaller quantities, they can still offer amazing health benefits especially when eaten fresh. Dill has high levels in the flavonols subgroup quercetin and isorhamnetin, whereas parsley is high in apigenin and isorhamnetic. Thyme has high levels of flavones such as luteolin and capers have good quantities of flavonols kaempferol and quercetin. The good news is that everybody’s favorite food chocolate has high levels of catechins, especially if you get the dark assortment of this classic treat.
Drink Your Flavonoids Up
You can always take fruits that are full of flavonoids and juice them. Some people find it easier to consume vegetables and fruits that way as long as the fruit and vegetables are fresh rather than processed you should get all the phytonutrients available. Besides being a great way to wind down, red wine has many health benefits such as high levels of anthocyanidins and the flavonols quercetin and myricetin. Obviously, wine is made from grapes, so grapes and grape juice carry the same health advantages. Black, red and green tea selections have high levels of catechins, for instance epigallocatechin and flavonols such as thearubigin.
Needless to say, the health food guidebook is this: “The brighter the color of the food, the more vitamins and nutrients they have to offer”! So, do yourself a favor and choose the foods that contain the most phytochemicals, which are usually the most intensely hued, to protect your body from diseases.