Why are flavonoids important?
This is another topic my clients rarely know anything about. But once they realize how powerful flavonoids are, plus how easy it is to get more of them in their diet, they quickly become flavonoid fans.
Let’s talk about some of the important jobs of flavonoids:
- Flavonoids regulate cellular activity, which helps the body to function more efficiently.
- Flavonoids fight inflammation, one of our very favorite topics here at More Than Healthy. Since inflammation is a root cause of disease and pain, anything that helps rid the body of inflammation is important.
- Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants, something you hear us talk a lot about. They fight off free radicals and help prevent oxidative stress. That means they help protect the body against toxins, stressors, and aging.
Research shows that flavonoids are powerful nutrients. In fact, flavonoids may be a big reason why plant-based diets are consistently associated with such potent health benefits.
Where do flavonoids come from?
Flavonoids are various compounds found naturally and in abundance in many fruits and vegetables. They’re found in all parts of plants, including the fruit, seeds, shoots, flowers, and leaves. They actually help plants to reproduce by attracting pollinators. They protect plants from environmental stressors like too much UV light, drought, and cold.
In addition, flavonoids are found in plant products like wine, tea, and chocolate.
There are six different types of flavonoids found in food, and your body breaks down each kind differently. Let’s talk about each type of flavonoid, where you find them, and the main health benefits you get from them.
Since flavonols are known for their antioxidant properties, their health benefits are impressive. Numerous studies show that they help support blood vessel health and circulation. That’s great news for your heart and overall health because the circulatory system is the pathway for delivering vital oxygen and nutrients to organs and tissues, including the brain.
Some studies show that flavonols improve memory in older adults.
Flavonols are predominant in foods and beverages such as tea, apples, grapes, red wine, and cocoa. You can also find them in onions, kale, peaches, berries, tomatoes, lettuce, scallions, and broccoli.
Cocoa flavonols are almost a special sub-category of flavonoids on their own. They’re a unique blend of phytonutrients found only in the prized cocoa bean. David was really excited to learn this, as he loves his dark chocolate on occasion. But be aware that although cocoa beans are a natural source, the processing of the cocoa beans – fermentation, roasting, and alkalization – can destroy some of these unique flavonols.
The next flavonoid we’ll talk about is flavan-3-ols, which are also found in tea, apples, purple and red grapes, blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, cocoa, and chocolate.
Flavan-3-ols are known as an extra-powerful antioxidant. Decades of research consistently demonstrates their ability to help reduce the risk of diet-related conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
That’s because these powerful flavonoids improve blood pressure, blood flow, and cholesterol levels. They also help even out blood sugar. That’s why they’ve been highly recommended for individuals with type 2 diabetes to help reduce blood sugar spikes.
Flavan-3-ols also help protect the body’s cells from damage as we age.
Flavones are the pigments in blue and white flowering plants and work as a natural pesticide, protecting leaves from harmful insects. You can find these in foods like parsley, red peppers, celery, chamomile, and peppermint.
In addition to helping improve circulation to lower heart disease and cholesterol, research indicates that flavones help with varicose veins by improving the blood flow in the legs.
Specific flavonoid names are a bit of a tongue-twister, as they’re all named so similarly! But flavanones are different from flavones. They’re found in citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, lemons, and limes.
They are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, which can help treat diseases like arthritis, gastritis, hepatitis, ulcerative colitis, and Alzheimer’s disease Some studies show they help manage weight and cholesterol.
Next are isoflavones. These are important for helping to keep your hormones balanced, which is something I’m working extra hard on these days.
Studies show that isoflavones might be helpful in alleviating menopause symptoms including improved fatigue, less irritability, and decreased hot flashes. It’s also shown to help in preventing osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
Isoflavones are found in soy, edamame, soybeans, miso, soy yogurt, soy milk, tempeh, legumes, and fava beans.
An important note about soy: We don’t eat a lot of soy, but when we do, I ensure it’s high quality and organic. I’ve read that 92% of soybeans are genetically modified, meaning you don’t want to eat those. Soybeans are naturally hard to digest, so fermentation makes them more digestible and adds flavor to a meal. It also deactivates soy’s natural phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, which can affect mineral and protein absorption. It’s interesting to note that tempeh, miso, and tamari are fermented. Tofu is not, but it doesn’t affect mineral and protein absorption because of how it’s made. We avoid processed soy products like burgers, as they cause David stomach issues.
The last flavonoid is anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are a big reason that you hear the phrase “eat the rainbow,” as bright-colored fruits and vegetables tend to have a lot of them.
These are naturally-produced pigments that give flowers their red, purple, and blue color. They’re predominantly found in the outer skin of red and purple grapes, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, black elderberries, plums, and cherries. They’re also found in blood oranges, pomegranates, red cabbage, red onions, red radishes, purple cauliflower, purple corn, eggplant, black beans, black rice, black soybeans, grape juice, and red wine.
Along with all the benefits listed earlier, one study found that a daily dose of cherry juice improved speech and memory in people aged 70 and over with mild or moderate dementia.
A review of 66 studies showed that anthocyanins may help reduce blood pressure. Another study reported anthocyanins increased blood flow to and activated brain areas that control memory, language, and attention.
Studies suggest that anthocyanins might block the changes in DNA that cause cancer, thereby destroying cancer cells and stopping their growth. This means they can prevent tumors from becoming cancerous, reverse drug resistance, and increase their sensitivity to chemotherapy.
These are all things we’re very interested in doing to make sure David’s cancer doesn’t come back.
As you can see, different flavonoids can help the body in different ways, but they all pack a powerful health punch. And, just in case you’re not convinced yet, take a look at one last benefit…
A new study shows that, in addition to preventing cancer and heart disease, flavonoids prevent death from ALL causes. Researchers found that women with the highest flavonoid intake experienced 62% fewer deaths over the course of five years.
Are you flavonoid deficient?
The following may be signs of a flavonoid deficiency:
- Frequent colds or infections
- A weakened immune system
- Excessive bruising
- Extended swelling after an injury,
- Nose bleeds
Increasing your flavonoid intake is an easy way to boost your immune system.
How to get more of the health benefits of flavonoids
It’s fairly easy to increase your intake of flavonoids. I recommend that you eat organic whenever possible. Please don’t try to get them in processed foods (read more about the dangers of processed foods here). Natural, whole foods are always the best way to eat all these flavonoid-packed fruits and vegetables.
And… don’t forget the chocolate. Good, high-quality chocolate and cocoa are what you want to be eating. When you consume the right kind of chocolate, it can act as a superfood (more about that here).
One of our very favorites is Amano Chocolate. They’re a local artisan chocolatier, but you can purchase their chocolate online. We love the Madagascar Premium Dark Chocolate.
Whether you’re trying to reduce your cholesterol, improve your blood flow and circulatory system, improve your memory, reduce your risk of cancer, control your blood sugar, or slow the aging process, flavonoids are a great way to do that. And, if you do it strictly with food, the risk of overdoing it seems low (unless you drink too much red wine).
Flavonoids and hair analysis
If you don’t know if you’re getting enough flavonoids in your diet, then a great way to find out is with hair analysis testing, an excellent, informative service now offered at More Than Healthy. It will show you if you’re low in flavonoids, so you can add more of those foods to your diet if needed.
It will show you a lot of other things as well. With just a few strands of your hair, you receive a full report looking at toxins, nutrients, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, electromagnetic frequency exposure, chemicals, radiation, parasites, immune factors, and foods you should avoid.
Go to our website to learn more. You can schedule a local hair analysis or order it online to be mailed to you today.
As always, we enjoy hearing from you. If you have questions on anything we’ve discussed or any issue, you can go to our social media pages on Facebook or Instagram (@morethanhealthyliving). We try to respond to all questions.
We’d love to become your health coaches as you work to become “more than healthy” and achieve optimal health. Thanks for joining us, and we’ll see you next week.
Note: Remember, we’re not doctors. We’re just sharing what’s worked for us on our health journey. You will want to consult your doctor before significantly changing your diet and supplementation.