The term flavonoid encompasses many different plant pigments. You may be eating flavonoids and not even realize it if you eat berries or chocolate or if you drink wine or tea.
Some flavonoids give flowers their colour, some protect plants from insect attacks, and some have qualities that may benefit human health. Beyond their antioxidant power, flavonoids appear to be able to improve the way cells in our bodies work. Studies have shown that flavonoids may help prevent cancer by helping to detoxify our cells of potentially carcinogenic chemicals and by inhibiting the invasion of tumour cells into healthy cells. Flavonoids may also support good cardiovascular health by decreasing the inflammation that can lead to atherosclerosis, a heart attack risk.
The flavonoid family of plant pigments consists of lots of similarly-named categories – flavanols, flavanones, flavonols, isoflavones, and flavones… to name a few! Two of the more famous flavonoids are anthocyanins and catechins.
Anthocyanins lend a purple or red colour to fruits like berries (including blueberries and açaí berries) and grapes (as well as the wine that some grapes become). Catechins can be found in chocolate, grapes, berries, and apples, and their presence in tea has given the drink a strong reputation as an antioxidant, especially green tea. Several studies showed that people who drink 5 to 6 cups of tea per day have a lower heart disease death rate than those who had a lower intake of flavonoid-rich foods and drinks.
A special kind of phytochemical called resveratrol is often mentioned alongside flavonoids. It has been linked to heart health and cancer prevention, though there is still no definitive evidence that the benefits can be found from simply eating or drinking it in grapes, berries, or red wine. Resveratrol has also sparked interest as a potential fountain of longevity, though studies have only been done on worms, fruit flies, and fish.
What to eat to get more flavonoids or resveratrol:
- blackberries, blueberries, grapes, raspberries, strawberries
- red wine
- red onion
- green tea, black tea
- chili pepper
- lemon juice
- grapefruit juice, orange juice
- yellow onion
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