Flavonoids are plant compounds with a variety of health benefits. There are six primary types of flavonoids, each with health-promoting effects. These are:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another great source of flavanols is red wine. Red wine in moderation has multiple health benefits, especially with lowering risks of cardiovascular disease.
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.
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.
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.