What Are Flavonoids?

Flavonoids are a type of plant pigment responsible for the color of many red, orange and yellow foods. There are many different kinds of flavonoids, including flavonols, isoflavones, flavanones, rutin, apigenin and luteolin. Many flavonoids have antioxidant properties, but others have antibiotic or anti-inflammatory properties. Flavonoids also help your body absorb and use vitamin C.

How Flavonoids Function in Your Body

Flavonoids act in conjunction with vitamin C, and vice versa, so that each nutrient enhances the antioxidant properties of the other. Flavonoids help boost the immune system, prevent oxidative cell damage and cancer, and protect against heart disease. Flavonoids can help ease inflammation in the body. Flavonoids may even help to damage viruses and bacteria that infect your body, giving them antiviral and antibiotic properties.

Flavonoids can help prevent and treat a number of illnesses. Adding flavonoids to your diet can be of immense benefit in the management of conditions such as asthma, diabetes, gout and hemorrhoids. Macular degeneration, migraine, stomach ulcers and allergies can also benefit from increased flavonoid consumption.

Symptoms and Causes of Flavonoid Deficiency

The FDA has not yet established recommended daily intake levels for flavonoids. However, a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables should provide adequate flavonoids. Flavonoid deficiency causes decreased immune function, nose bleeds, hemorrhoids, excessive bruising and excessive swelling after an injury.

Poor diet is the primary cause of flavonoid deficiency. If your diet relies heavily on processed foods and is poor in fresh, whole foods, you could be at risk for flavonoid deficiency. Food processing techniques greatly decrease the flavonoid content of most foods. Repeated, excessive heating of canned foods and the removal of pulp from fruit juices greatly decreases the flavonoid content of these foods.

Flavonoid Toxicity

Researchers have found no ill health effects associated with high levels of flavonoids in the diet.

Getting More Flavonoids into Your Diet

Almost all plant foods contain flavonoids. Flavonoids give color to red raspberries, blue blueberries and orange carrots. Flavonoids are present in herbs and spices as well as fruits, vegetables and legumes. You can even find flavonoids in red wine and green tea. 

Of all foods, berries contain the most flavonoids. Green tea contains nearly one entire gram of flavonoids per cup. In general, brightly colored foods are highest in flavonoids. For the most part, you’ll find the flavonoids in the skin, or rind of the fruit, although in oranges, it’s the white inner skin that contains the most flavonoids. 

Because there are so many dietary sources of flavonoids available, flavonoid supplementation isn’t really needed unless your doctor recommends it for the treatment of an illness. Eat a diet rich in whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables to ensure an adequate flavonoid intake. Cook your vegetables properly to preserve the flavonoid content. Overcooking vastly diminishes the flavonoid content of most fruits and vegetables; eat your fruits and vegetables raw when possible to retain the highest possible flavonoid content in your food.

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