Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Flavonoids – are you getting enough?

Coming from a family of planters and plantations, my summer vacations were spent in Mangalore and Coorg. Almost everything we ate was home grown or raised. From the spices, coffee, milk, vegetables, to the fruit, the chicken, the lamb or the pig. We rarely made a trip to the market. Food was grown in house, water from the well, cooked on firewood. The focus of life was never on nutrition, we lived nutritiously naturally. Every time hunger pangs showed up, we plucked a fruit off the tree, wiped it down on our tee shirts and ate it. 

I recently came across this word flavonoid — “Flavonoids are a diverse group of phytonutrients (plant chemicals) found naturally in many fruits, vegetables and herbs and other plant products such as dry beans, grains, red wine and green and black teas. Along with carotenoids, they are responsible for the vivid colours in fruits and vegetables. The general rule is that the more colourful a food item, the richer it is in flavonoids.”

I can proudly say that I have lived a life rich in flavonoids without even knowing the huge benefits of it on health.

As my knowledge on flavonoids has grown, here’s a quick share on its various sources and it’s health benefits.

There are six different types of dietary flavonoids, each can be absorbed by the body through the intake of a variety of fruits and vegetables. 

1- Flavanols

2- Flavan-3-ols

3- Flavones

4- Flavonones

5- Isoflavons

6- Anthocyanins


Flavanols — These types of flavonoids are known for their antioxidant properties and are found in onions, kale, grapes, peaches, berries, tomatoes, lettuce, scallions, broccoli, red wine and black tea.


Flavan-3-ols — Foods with these types of flavonoids are very rich in nutrients. They include: apples, red and purple grapes, blueberries, strawberries, Teas —white tea, green tea, oolong tea, black tea and cocoa and chocolate products.


Flavones — Flavones are the pigments in blue and white flowering plants. They also work as a natural pesticide, protecting leaves from harmful insects. Flavones may also help with inflammation in the body and can be found in: parsley, red capsicum, celery, chamomile, and peppermint.


Flavanones — Flavanones are known for their anti-inflammatory properties lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit are rich in flavanones.


Isoflavones — Isoflavones found in soy, soy products and fava beans may help keep hormones balanced in your body. 


Anthocyanins — Anthocyanins are naturally produced pigments that give flowers their red, purple, and blue colour. They are predominantly found in the outer skin of berries and berry products, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, red and purple grapes and red wine too. 

The types of flavonoids and their sources as information is not as important as knowing exactly what do flavonoids do?

– Flavonoids have beneficial anti-inflammatory effects

– They protect your cells from oxidative damage that can lead to disease. 

– They help your body function efficiently while protecting it against everyday toxins and stressors.

– They are also powerful antioxidant agents and as we know antioxidants help your body fight off potentially harmful molecules in the body, such as allergens, germs, toxins and other irritants which if left to do what they please, they may trigger inflammation, a natural immune response, whose symptoms can be uncomfortable and painful.

– Flavonoids may help your body dismiss or reduce that inflammatory reaction so that those symptoms are reduced.

Increasing the number of flavonoids and plant foods in your diet benefits your body to stay healthy and potentially decrease your risk of some chronic health conditions.


Health benefits of flavonoids — 

Decreases hypertension 

Lowers blood pressure 

Decreases the rate of end- organ damage

Prevents cancer

Prevents heart disease 

Lowers the risk of Type 2 diabetes 


How many of these foods do you regularly eat? 

Do you try to consume a range of fruit and veggies every week? 


Whether fruits and veggies are better consumed with or without their peels is often up for debate. From a nutritional perspective, peels are typically the most nourishing part of the food. Peels are often rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. 

By peeling, you could be throwing away one of the most nutrient-dense parts of the plant. Peels that are extremely tough, difficult to clean, hard to digest or simply inedible should be avoided but some should be celebrated. Remember our ancestors plucked and ate.


Potato — The carb-filled fluffy insides are tasty, but potato skins are packed full of fiber and nutrients. Iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C are all held in that outer layer. The skin of a sweet potato is also loaded with beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A during digestion.


FACT —100 grams of potato peel packs seven times more calcium and 17 times more iron than the same amount of potato flesh.


Peach – Along with a high dose of fibre, peach skins also contain a whole host of antioxidants and vitamins. They’re high in vitamin A and contain carotenoids, a kind of antioxidant and provitamin, which could help lessen your chances of cataracts.

One study even found that removing peach skin results in ingesting 13 to 48 per cent fewer antioxidants.

Watermelon – The most popular part of the watermelon is the pink flesh, but like its cousin, the cucumber, the whole thing is edible.

Watermelon rinds have an amino acid called citrulline that can help remove nitrogen from your blood and ease sore muscles.

In addition, watermelon is a great source of potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C.

Eating the rind might not sound appetising but it can be pickled, juiced, or simply sauteed and seasoned.

Apple – The skin of an apple contains about half of the overall dietary fibre content. The peel also has four times more vitamin K than its flesh; about 5 per cent of your recommended daily value.

By removing the peel, you lose about a third of those nutrients.

Cucumber – Cucumbers are around 95 per cent water, so you’re removing the majority of the nutrients by peeling them.


Vinita Alvares Fernandes
Vinita Alvares Fernandes is an Economics graduate, a writer and a Trinity College certified public speaker and communicator

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