Across discussions on diet and health, you will keep coming across terms like ‘flavonoids’ and ‘flavonoid rich foods’. These compounds come from plants and have a number of positive effects on our health but what exactly are they? And what do they do? We will be answering some questions and will also share a list of some of the best food sources of flavonoids. Hopefully, you come away with a deeper understanding and are better informed to make your dietary choices.
What are Flavonoids?
Flavonoids are compounds that occur naturally in fruits and vegetables. They may also be present in some teas and wines since those are made from plants. There are a few types of flavonoids that are metabolized and used in different ways by the body. A healthy amount of flavonoid foods in your diet can possibly increase your resilience to inflammation and also lower your risk of developing chronic illnesses.
What are the Uses of Flavonoids?
Flavonoids primarily help with reducing oxidation and curbing free radicals. Other major uses of flavonoids are listed below:
- Flavonoid rich foods may help your body to operate its cells more efficiently, while simultaneously getting rid of free radicals. Free radicals are harmful molecules that can cause damage to your cells and body through a process known as oxidative stress. Flavonoids are known to stop this harmful activity.
- As a cell grows and ages, oxidation and reactions can lead to damage. Antioxidants help to avoid or slow down this oxidation process, leading to better cell function and lower risk of cell damage. Flavonoids are one type of strong antioxidant.
- When your body experiences infection, allergic reactions, toxins, and irritation, the immune system responds by causing inflammation. This is helpful as it helps kill unwanted germs. But in many cases, inflammation is unnecessary and may lead to long-term damage. Some flavonoids help your body not to go into overdrive and curb the inflammation response.
Flavonoid Rich Foods by Type
There are various food sources of flavonoids. As mentioned earlier, flavonoids come in several types. Here are the different sources listed by the type of flavonoid in them:
This is a natural pigment, which is found in the leaves, flowers, and fruit of many plants. Although there has been no conclusive evidence that anthocyanins have beneficial effects, there have been studies that indicate higher antioxidant capacity. Flavonoid foods rich in anthocyanin include berries, grapes, strawberries, and wine.
Flavones are found in many spices or yellow/orange fruits and vegetables and are thought to be anti-inflammatory and even offer protection to the heart and brain. Although widely available in many things we eat, a few flavonoid rich foods are high in flavones. These include herbs and teas like chamomile flowers; oregano; rosemary; mandarin; orange juices; and veggies like artichokes, broccoli, certain types of celery, and green peas.
Falvonols are potent flavonoids known for their antioxidant properties. A study found that flavonols in cranberry juice may help to prevent bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract, thus preventing an infection. Flavonoid foods rich in flavonols include onions, broccoli, kale, apples, berries, and some teas.
These compounds are naturally derived from flavones and have powerful antioxidant effects as well as the ability to get rid of free radicals. This may potentially help with chronic diseases and reduce the risk of some cancers. Flavonoid foods with high concentrations of flavanones are mainly of the citrus type like oranges and lemons.
The flavanonols are being studied for their potential benefits in treating liver disease, reducing fat retention and possibly improving insulin resistance. It is found in citrus fruits and also in vinegar.
Isoflavones are thought to have some effect on maintaining hormone balance in humans, it has been linked to lower breast and prostate cancer risk. The benefits of isoflavones may include better bone health, improved heart health, and lower effects during menopause. Isoflavones are found in high levels – mostly in legumes, specifically soybeans. It is also found in peanuts, chickpeas, and pistachios.
There are other types of flavonoids too that have not been covered here. The main thing to keep in mind is that most plant-based food will contain some amount of flavonoids. But only a few fruits, vegetables, or beverages will contain larger amounts of them. Adding these flavonoid rich foods to your diet may result in lower inflammation and less cell damage. However, these compounds need to be studied in much more detail since most experiments so far have only been performed in labs.
You must’ve noticed that none of these foods is too exotic or strange. Maybe you already have these in your kitchen or they might be a regular part of your diet. The anti-cancer benefits of flavonoid foods need a lot more research but continuing to eat these foods may still have other health benefits. Flavonoids are not a miraculous substance; there is much we do not know yet. Till then, try to add some flavonoid rich foods to your diet and see if it makes you feel any healthier!