Everyone knows that eating lots of fruits and vegetables is a good idea. But it’s not just because they’re full of vitamins, minerals and fiber. It’s also because they give you the benefits of bioflavonoids — the nutrients that give them their color and taste.
There are literally thousands of different bioflavonoids. Bioflavonoids, or flavonoids for short, make up a large class of antioxidants, thousands in all. They are part of an even larger group of plant chemicals called phytochemicals.
Phytochemicals (or phytonutrients) are plant chemicals that have protective or disease-preventive properties. They are nonessentialnutrients, not required by the human body for sustaining life. That doesn’t mean that they’re not important! There are more than a thousand known phytochemicals, and an unknown number that have not yet been isolated.
There is still a lot we don’t know about all of the possible benefits of bioflavonoids. We do know that plants produce these chemicals to protect themselves from harsh growing conditions, but recent research demonstrates that when consumed, they can also protect you against many diseases, especially heart disease and cancer. That’s why it’s important to get as many of them as possible by eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
A single fruit or vegetable can have dozens of different flavonoids.One reason there are so many flavonoids is that, typically, plants have many different flavonoids in them. Onions, for example, contain over 40 different flavonoids, including most of the ones I’ll mention here. This again demonstrates that antioxidants are meant to work together.
In almost every circumstance, combinations of antioxidants are more effective than single antioxidants alone.
Systemic Benefits of Bioflavonoids
In general, all flavonoids are potentially useful as antioxidants, antivirals, and anti-inflammatories. Although flavonoids are not so-called network antioxidants, they do interact with the network — for example, they regenerate vitamin C, which in turn, regenerates vitamin E. They work together with vitamin C and help maximize its benefits. They also help raise your levels of glutathione, the most abundant antioxidant in your body.
General Health Benefits of Bioflavonoids
As noted above, all flavonoids are potentially useful as antioxidants, antivirals, and anti-inflammatories. These properties provide you with the specific potential benefits of bioflavonoids such as:
- lower cholesterol level
- stronger blood vessels
- Improved circulation
- relief from asthma
- relief from allergy symptoms
- protection against cancer
- protection against infections
- protection against cavities
- prevention of gum disease
- improved liver function
- improved brain function
- younger-looking skin
- relief from hemorrhoids
- treatment and prevention of menstrual disorders
- improved vision and prevention of eye diseases
- removal of heavy metals from your body
Bioflavonoids have a long history of use. Ancient medicine men, going back 5,000 years, have used flavonoid compounds to treat a wide variety of ailments. Many are still in use today.
Specific Examples of Bioflavonoids
Individual flavonoids are categorized in a variety of ways, sometimes overlapping categories. Although they are all structurally related, they do different jobs. Here are the most well-known flavonoids and some of their uses. Click on the text links to get more details on any specific one:
Curcumin — antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic nutrient; source of the spice turmeric.
Bioflavonoids are active ingredients in many herbal products. The medicinal properties of many herbal products comes from bioflavonoids. These include all of the following, plus many others:
Ginkgo Biloba — improves circulation, brain function, memory, promotes eye health.
Pycnogenol — contains a mix of different types of antioxidants, making it very versatile.
Resveratrol — antioxidant found in red wine, promotes cardiovascular health and may have life-extension properties.
Bilberry — Best supplement for eye health; also improves circulation.
Milk Thistle — source of the antioxidant silymarin, strengthens and detoxifies the liver.
Best Food Sources
for the Benefits of Bioflavonoids
Fruits and Vegetables. Which foods are the best sources of flavonoids? At the top of the list is kale, then garlic, spinach, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and beets.
Bioflavonoids are also found in good quantities in the pulp and rinds of citrus fruits and other foods containing vitamin C. These include grapes, oranges, grapefruits, tomatoes, lemons, plums, papaya, cherries, apples, apricots and berries. Other excellent sources include green tea, eggplant, flaxseed, and soybeans.
Herbs and Spices. The most concentrated source of flavonoids can be found in everyday herbs and spices. Spices such as garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, parsley, ginger and others have been used throughout history for their health-promoting and medicinal properties, which come from their rich flavonoid content. Making them a regular part of your diet means you’ll get those benefits as well.
Which bioflavonoids are the most important? All of them, of course. That is why a diet that consists of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is so important. There are many phytochemicals in plants that have not yet been identified, and may have health benefits that we don’t know about yet.