Blueberries, spinach, and dark chocolate all have something in common.
They’re all high in flavonoids, which are plant-derived chemical compounds that give plants their color and medicinal properties.
Flavonoids have been shown in studies to have a wide range of health advantages, including cancer prevention, heart disease prevention, and brain function preservation. They’ve even been used to reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
“The key reason flavonoids are healthy for us is that they have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties,” said Kristina Petersen, an assistant professor in Texas Tech University’s department of nutritional sciences in Lubbock.
Antioxidants aid in the prevention of inflammation and the aging process. Flavonoids may also help prevent blood clots due to their anticoagulant qualities.
According to a study published last year in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, flavonoids in foods like berries, red wine, apples, and pears may alter gut bacteria in a way that lowers blood pressure, according to a study.
As a result, flavonoids play a key part in the Mediterranean, DASH, and MIND diets, which are the most widely advised eating patterns for heart and brain health. While there are some variances between the three, flavonoid-rich fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans are all heavily emphasized.
However, most Americans are deficient in flavonoids, owing to a failure to consume the recommended daily allotment of fruits and vegetables. Adults should consume 1.5–2 cups of fruit and 3–4 cups of vegetables per day, according to federal dietary guidelines.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, barely one out of every ten Americans consumes enough vegetables, and only one out of every eight consumes enough fruit.
The good news is that flavonoids can be found in a broad variety of fruits, vegetables, and other foods, so including them in your diet shouldn’t be difficult, according to Petersen.
Berries of all kinds, cherries, apples, grapes, leeks, and leafy green vegetables, including spinach, romaine lettuce, and kale, all contain them. Are you a fan of garlic and onions? You’ll also find them there. Soybeans? They have those as well.
For the best nutritional value, Petersen suggests eating a wide variety of flavonoid-rich foods. “The idea is to consume a wide range of colored fruits and vegetables. Eat a spectrum of colors, “she stated.
If you’re not used to eating a lot of produce, she recommends gradually incorporating it into your diet.
“Every day, eat one more piece of fruit,” Petersen said. When it’s time for dinner, add another vegetable to your plate. It’s difficult to alter your entire diet at once, so start with little modifications. “
She claims that the best way to get the flavonoids you need is to eat fresh, complete meals. But that isn’t the only one.
According to Peterson, frozen berry mixtures are a decent alternative if fresh fruits aren’t available. Flash-frozen fruits and vegetables keep high levels of nutrients, are easy to store, and may offer variety to the dish even when they are out of season.
Flavonoids can also be consumed. Red wine and tea, particularly black or green tea, are excellent sources. Fruits and vegetables can also be pressed into juices or smoothies, but juicing is less than optimal, according to Petersen, because it loses a lot of the essential fiber.
“If that’s the only way you can get them into your diet, then do it,” she advised.
Dark chocolate, of course, is a delicious way to get your daily dose of flavonoids.
To get your flavonoid fix, you don’t have to force yourself to eat foods you don’t enjoy. “Telling people to eat foods they don’t like never works,” Petersen added. “There are so many to pick from,” so eat your favorites. Also, don’t be scared to branch out and try new things.
Anyone who follows the Mediterranean, DASH, or MIND diets, or any other high-quality plant-based diet, should be fine.
“The idea is to eat in a healthy way,” Petersen explained. “And if we do that, we’ll get enough flavonoids,” she says.