Your diet provides an array of health-promoting nutrients. You're likely familiar with vitamins and minerals, but foods also supply other potentially beneficial substances, such as bioflavonoids. Found in plants, flavonoids are linked to some of the potential benefits of diets rich in fruits and vegetables. Because eating a fruit- and vegetable-rich diet lowers the risk for chronic disease and some types of cancers, scientists are interested in whether flavonoids may be at least partially responsible for these benefits.
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Most Common Flavonoids
Flavonoids are a very large and diverse group of compounds commonly grouped together by subclass. Anthocyanins, flavanols, flavanones, flavonols, flavones and isoflavones are six common subclasses of flavonoids found in various fruits, vegetables, legumes, herbs and teas. Many flavonoids are responsible for the pigment of certain fruits and vegetables. For example, anthocyanins give many red, blue and purple fruits and vegetables their color.
Potential Health Benefits
Flavonoids may help reduce inflammation, which may protect against arterial plaque build-up -- a common risk factor for heart disease -- according to the Linus Pauling Institute. In addition, flavonoids are responsible for the potential heart-healthy benefits of red wine. Some benefits of flavonoids may be due to their antioxidant capacity, according to Food Science professor Ronald E. Wrolstad, Ph.D. Antioxidants are substances that neutralize free radicals, unstable atoms that can damage cells.
Common Dietary Sources
Flavonoids are widely distributed throughout plant foods in your diet. Soybeans and other legumes are a common source of isoflavones, while flavanols are found in teas, chocolate, red wine, grapes, berries and apples. Flavonones are distinct to citrus fruits, and flavones are commonly found in parsley, celery and hot peppers. The flavonol subclass is found in onions, broccoli, kale, apples and scallions, to name a few.
Best Way to Get Flavonoids
While flavonoids are available as dietary supplements, it remains unknown whether they offer the same benefits as eating a flavonoid-rich diet, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. For this reason, the best way to get flavonoids is through your diet. Because each fruit and vegetable has various nutrients, variety is key. Choose a plethora of richly pigmented vegetables, dark leafy greens and brightly colored fruit. Mix it up and choose new fruits and veggies when you go to the grocery to ensure variety.