From fighting cancer, helping with weight loss, and boosting cardiovascular health, to giving fruit and vegetables their vibrant reds and purples, there is a lot to love about flavonoids.
Comprised of naturally occurring compounds known as phytonutrients, flavonoids are a powerful family of antioxidants mainly found in plant-based foods. Regardless of the source, flavonoids function in complex ways to strengthen the immune system and fight a variety of diseases.
Five major subclasses of flavonoids exist with each found in different foods and drinks that come packed with an assortment of health benefits.
Anthocyanidins are antioxidant-packed flavonoid pigments that help preserve the brain and body. They are most commonly found in red, violet, and blue-colored fruits and vegetables such as beets, purple cabbage, eggplant, tart cherry, blueberries, plums and purple grapes. Anthocyanidins do more than give these foods their rich colors, however.
They also enhance heart health by managing cholesterol and blood sugar, protect against diabetes by lowering blood glucose, and boost cognitive functions – particularly among older adults – by reducing brain cell damage.
Flavonols are particularly prominent in yellow onions, broccoli, kale, apples, green or black tea, and red wine. Just like other subgroups of flavonoids, they have strong anti-inflammatory capabilities and protect the body from illness by fending off free radicals.
One major health benefit of regular flavonol intake is a reduced risk of coronary heart disease. The most widespread type of flavonol, known as quercetin, is also the most effective; it has been linked to boosting physical endurance and even helps relieve hay fever and associated symptoms.
Another vital member of the flavonoid brigade with powerful antioxidant properties, flavanols are most abundant in citrus fruits, particularly grapefruits and oranges. Three main types of flavanones exist – hesperidin, naringenin, and silymarin, with each functioning in a variety of ways to improve health and boost performance.
The latter two are essential nutrients for supporting the liver and limiting the effects of diabetes, while hesperidin plays a major role in preserving blood health, particularly in protecting blood vessels from damage. Quite simply, these three branches of flavanones work in unison to benefit the body in more effective ways than other nutrients.
If eating plenty of herbs and leafy greens, you’re likely getting a healthy fix of flavones, one of the largest sub-groups of flavonoids. Found in parsley, celery, artichokes and peppermint, flavones are potent anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants that can do anything from fending off cancer threats to promoting healthy blood flow across the body. A type of flavone known as apigenin even helps smoothen muscle contractions and prevent muscle spasms.
Flavan-3-ols are abundant in teas, particularly black, green and oolong varieties. Just like some of the aforementioned sub-groups of flavonoids, flavan-3-ols protect against cancer and diabetes, and have also been linked to preventing mental deterioration and boosting heart health.
Two types of flavan-3-ols – pigallocatechin gallate and gallocatechol – are linked with relieving painful symptoms of arthritis. Catechin, another key cog of the flavan-3-ol family, acts as a powerful antihistamine, one that helps allay allergic symptoms such as sneezing, coughing and itchiness.
Flavonoids sources extended beyond fruits and vegetables. Michael Greger, M.D. of Nutritionfacts.org provides the research rundown on the weight loss benefits of flavonoids in the video below. He also has a host of research supported videos about cancer, aging, and cardiovascular health that are definitely worth watching.
The benefits are clear. So next time you’re hungry for a snack grab fruits, vegetables, or nuts. Your mind and body will thank you.
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