Top Foods High in Flavonoids

Flavonoids are plant compounds with a variety of health benefits. There are six primary types of flavonoids, each with health-promoting effects. These are:

  • Flavonols
  • Flavones
  • Flavan-3-ols
  • Flavanones
  • Anthocyanidins
  • Isoflavones

The best way to obtain all six types of flavonoids is to consume a variety of fruits and vegetables. Many plant-based foods and beverages like tea and wine contain flavonoids. Numerous studies have shown the many benefits of these phytonutrients. Researchers have found that eating a diet rich in flavonoids reduces the risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

Why You Need Flavonoids

A diet rich in plant foods benefits the body in many ways. Phytonutrients like flavonoids have beneficial anti-inflammatory effects and they protect your cells from oxidative damage that can lead to disease. These dietary antioxidants can prevent the development of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Other health benefits include:

Cancer Prevention

A published review of all flavonoid studies over eleven years concluded that a diet rich in flavonoids leads to a reduced risk of several different cancers. These studies indicate the antioxidant activity of flavonoids protect against breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers.

It’s important to note that these studies suggest that different flavonoids have a protective effect against specific cancer types. For example, anthocyanidins decrease lung cancer risk, while flavonols reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Therefore, it’s best to consume various plant food sources to obtain different flavonoid subtypes. 

Management of Chronic Pain and Inflammation

Another medical review evaluated the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties of flavonoids, as demonstrated in several studies. Studies have shown that flavonoids reduce the cellular response to pain. Researchers believe flavonoids could be used medicinally to manage chronic pain and treat inflammatory diseases.

Treatment for Viral Infections

Flavonoids have proven antibacterial and antiviral effects. Numerous laboratory studies have shown that certain flavonoids prevent cell replication of H1N1 flu, HIV, SARS, and RSV viruses. Further research is needed to determine how flavonoids work in the body against viruses, and whether they could be an effective preventative measure.

Continued

Foods With Flavonoids

Many plant foods are rich in flavonoids, therefore, increasing fruits and vegetables in your diet is the easiest way to obtain them. These 10 foods are some of the best sources of dietary flavonoids available:

  1. Berries
    All berries contain flavonoids, but certain varieties are more potent than others.  Blackberries are particularly powerful and include all six types of flavonoids. Blueberries, cherries, and raspberries also contain all flavonoids. Strawberries have moderate amounts of anthocyanidins.
  2. Red Cabbage
    Another great dietary source of anthocyanidins is red cabbage. Anthocyanidins, in particular, have been studied for their protective effects against cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and age-related cognitive disorders.
  3. Onions
    Onions form the basis for a multitude of cuisines, and it’s no wonder why. This humble vegetable is a powerhouse of nutrients and adds flavor to any dish. Onions are a great source of flavonols, which can reduce the risk of prostate cancer. 
  4. Kale
    Another great source of flavonols is kale. Kale leaves make an excellent base for salads and can be added to soups and stews to boost their nutritional value. If you don’t care for the taste, add kale in smoothies and protein shakes to hide the taste.
  5. Parsley
    Parsley provides more flavonols in the American diet than any other food. Parsley contains over 130 milligrams of flavonols per gram. Add it to soups and sauces, or sprinkle over dishes before serving.
  6. Tea
    The easiest way to add flavonoids to your diet is to drink tea. Green, oolong, and black teas all contain high levels of flavanols, which have been studied for their benefits to cardiovascular and cognitive health.
  7. Red Wine
    Another great source of flavanols is red wine. Red wine in moderation has multiple health benefits, especially with lowering risks of cardiovascular disease.
  8. Dark Chocolate
    Chocolate and cocoa are both high in flavanols. Cocoa, in particular, has been studied for its cognitive-boosting properties and its protective effect on the cardiovascular system.
  9. Citrus Fruits
    Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, lemons, and limes contain flavanones. Juicing these fruits results in even more concentrated availability of these healthy plant compounds. You can also squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice into ice water to add nutritional value.
  10. Soybeans
    Soybeans come in a variety of different forms and are the best source of isoflavones. Eating edamame, tofu, tempeh, and soy sauce are great ways to increase isoflavones in your diet. Isoflavones have been studied for their protective effects against reproductive cancers like breast, ovarian, prostate, and testicular cancer.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 30, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Antioxidants: “Dietary Flavonoids as Cancer Chemopreventive Agents: An Updated Review of Human Studies.”

Archives of Virology: “Flavonoids: promising natural compounds against viral infections.”

Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology: “Anthocyanins and Human Health: An In Vitro Investigative Approach.”

Linus Pauling Institute: “Flavonoids.”

Molecules: “Therapeutic Potential of Flavonoids in Pain and Inflammation: Mechanisms of Action, Pre-Clinical and Clinical Data, and Pharmaceutical Development.”

USDA Agricultural Research Service: “USDA Database for the Flavonoid Content of Selected Foods.”

USDA Agricultural Research Service: “Sources of Flavonoids in the U.S. Diet Using USDA’s Updated Database on the Flavonoid Content of Selected Foods.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination

Get Diet and Fitness Tips In Your Inbox

Eat better and exercise smarter. Sign up for the Food & Fitness newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the WebMD Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of WebMD subscriptions at any time.