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The In’s and Out’s of Flavonoids

Fruits and vegetables are very potent at promoting health and are incredibly beneficial to our bodies. We already know they are full of vitamins and minerals, but did you know they are loaded with bioflavonoids?

Flavonoids are plant nutrients that are responsible for the many brilliant colors of fruits and vegetables, particularly purple and blue. They are perhaps the most beneficial phytochemicals found in food, and are the largest family of a class of plant compounds called polyphenols.

Citrus fruits, like oranges, lemons, and limes are good sources of vitamin C. They also contain a rich amount of bioflavanoids, which help promote good health. Often you’ll find flavonoids added to a supplement as an aid to enhance the action of vitamin C.

On their own, bioflavanoids are considered an antioxidant and used in treating allergies, viruses, arthritis, and other inflammatory conditions. I’ve even heard them referred to as super-antioxidants. They will scavenge many of the potentially harmful free radicals floating around in our bodies.

Flavonoids in plants are produced as a protection against parasites, oxidative injury and harsh climatic conditions. We can get them from our diet and as a supplement.

They support strong cell formations and can suppress poor cellular growth resulting in a sort of anti-carcinogenic effect. Some flavonoids appear to be much more potent antioxidants that even beta-carotene, vitamin C or vitamin E.

Other foods that are rich in flavonoids include red bell peppers or sweet peppers, strawberries, broccoli, garlic and spinach. Brussels sprouts are on this list as well, but they are not my favorite vegetable. Some teas, especially green tea, can be potent sources.

Many flavonoids can actually bind to metal ions, stopping these metals from behaving as catalysts that enhance free radical production in the body. They can support the body’s circulatory system by helping to keep vascular permeability, integrity, and resiliency.

They also have a broad array of other biochemical benefits. For example, flavonoids are involved in gene expression, capillary and cerebral blood flow, platelet aggregation, liver function, enzyme activity, and collagen, phospholipid, cholesterol, and histamine metabolism.

The skins of red and black grapes are rich in the dark red-violet flavonoids, and these are present in red wine. Now I do like that. These are referred to as proanthocyanidins. It is this aspect of cranberries that is thought to inhibit bacterial infections, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), though this is not conclusive through clinical trials.

Proanthocyanidins are the principal polyphenols in red wine that are under research to see if they lower overall mortality or coronary heart disease. One of the most studied polyphenols is resveratrol, which is found in the skin of grape skins and seeds.

Research has been crediting resveratrol with possible protective effects against a variety of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

In part, this is because resveratrol seems to mimic the effect of caloric restriction on cells. Calorie restriction can activate nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), which in turn can spur a couple of our “longevity genes”. Thus, resveratrol is showing promising results in reducing the effects of several age-related conditions.

There are over 6,000 unique flavonoids identified in research studies. This phytonutrient comes in many forms, like tannins, quercetin, catechins, and hesperedin.

We just don’t know all the details about how they function as antioxidants, but studies have documented better protection of certain cells following consumption of flavonoid-rich foods, like blueberries.

On a side note, nicotinamide riboside is a direct precursor to NAD and offers fundamental support to increase the availability of NAD. I’ve been reading some very promising material on improved metabolism and endurance, as well as extended lifespan in laboratory studies with this.

Come on down and we can talk more.

Scott Porter is a Functional Medicine Pharmacist at Sandpoint Super Drug. He is a member of the Sandpoint Wellness Council.

Photo: byrev / Pixabay

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