And back to school! Had my first day of class yesterday, so far I’m loving my classes! Looking forward to my final semester, and of course being done! I can’t even imagine not having school, I’m up for some big life changes this year; hopefully for the best :p.
Here’s a picture taken of my friend and I leaving a Craig in Ontario
Flavonoids in our diets have been decreasing with the rise of westernized diets; today we are frequently missing out on the many health benefits that flavonoids can provide. This post will be about flavonoids and their many health benefits; enjoy .
Firstly, let’s start with the basics. What are phytochemicals? ‘Phyto’ is the Greek word for plant, so phytochemicals can be defined as plant chemicals. They are generally non-nutritive with physiologically active components. In plants, they serve as protection from things like pests but in humans, many of them have mechanisms for disease prevention. So far, there are over 900 classes of phytochemicals identified. Some identified phytochemicals include allicin (in garlic), flavonoids, phytoestrogens, lycopene, etc.
Flavonoids are a class of polyphenols (in all plant organs, traditionally considered an anti-nutrient) which are a class of phytochemical. Polyphenols are secondary metabolites of plants and are essential to plant physiology, contributing to plant color, growth, reproduction, protection, etc. The concentration in a plant is influenced by a number of things including light, ripeness, processing, storage, etc. Its presence can increase the sour or bitter taste in the plants we eat.
So what’s so special about flavonoids? There’s a lot of research currently being done on flavonoids showing support on their ability to reduce the risks for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc. Essentially, any condition that is associated with oxidative stress would be a possibility for risk reductions with flavonoids. Flavonoids act as an anti-oxidant, hormonal or anti-hormonal (e.g. estrogenic or anti-estrogenic), anti-proliferative, anti-thrombotic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, etc. Clearly, flavonoids are healthy additions to our diets.
Flavonoids are in all plants, concentrated in their outer parts and typically with only trace amounts found under the soil (with exceptions including garlic and onions). Over 5000 flavonoids have been discovered with six major subclasses based on structural variation; flavones, flavonols, flavanones, flavanols, anthocyanidins, and isoflavones.
While fruits, vegetables, tea, and cocoa are rich natural sources of flavonoids, alternative sources of flavonoids, using dietary supplements, have become increasingly popular. Consumers seem to have a misperception of flavonoid supplements, and other plant supplements, with the assumption that since it`s `natural` it must be safe. This is simply not true. While plant sources have a complex mix of other secondary plant metabolites, supplements contain only (or almost only) one flavonoid; purified flavonoids bring issues such as toxicity or drug interactions as well as nutritional interactions (e.g. may affect vitamin C status).
Why would we put ourselves at risk when flavonoids are widely present in our diets? Just by upping our fruit and vegetable intake, we can reap the rewards. In fact, a recent meta-analysis showed that fruit and vegetable consumption decreased the risks for heart disease in a dose dependant fashion; heart disease risks dropped by 4% with each additional portion of fruit and vegetables throughout the day. Consuming our nutrients in food complexes is definitely the way to go; the complete plant profile is more important in terms of health than only one plant compound.
And some concluding thoughts; eat your fruits and vegetables, it’s as simple as that. Flavonoids are just one of the many benefits we receive from eating plant based foods. Hope you all have a great day!
Dixon R, Pasinetti G. (2010) Flavonoids and Isoflavonoids: From Plant Biology to Agriculture and Neuroscience. Plant Physiol.; 154(2): 453–457.
Egert S, Rimbach G. (2011) Which Sources of Flavonoids: Complex Diets or Dietary Supplements? Adv Nutr.; 2(1): 8–14.
Grassi D, Desideri G, Ferri C. (2010) Flavonoids: Antioxidants Against Atherosclerosis. Nutrients.; 2(8): 889–902.