A wide variety of fruits, vegetables and beverages are rich in one of the most complex groups of natural compounds found in food.
Known as bioflavonoids or simply flavonoids, more than 8,000 species have been identified, with more likely to be discovered in the future.
Bioflavonoids include isoflavonoids, flavanones, flavonols, flavanols, flavones, and anthocyanidins.
Foods rich in bioflavonoids include celery, parsley, herbs, peppers, berries, pomegranates, plums, red wine, grapes, citrus fruits, soybeans, legumes, onions, leeks, Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, tea, beans, apples, and cocoa.
Diets that regularly include these bioflavonoid-rich foods have been associated with longevity and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers, and neurodegenerative diseases.
Research suggests that the ability of bioflavonoids to reduce the risk of certain diseases is due to their ability to reduce inflammation, increase the body’s immune response and scavenge harmful free radicals. Their protective qualities are why they are produced by plants – self-defense against environmental insults.
Bioflavonoid supplements are available in a wide range of combinations and dosages. Many bioflavonoid supplements come from oranges, but it’s not always possible to know the exact source or which bioflavonoids you’re getting in a supplement. A label may simply say “bioflavonoids,” without listing the specific bioflavonoids the supplement contains.
The most common are bioflavonoids combined with vitamin C. This is because vitamin C increases their absorption. There are many supplements of individual bioflavonoids, such as hesperidin, quercetin and catechins. If you eat a diet rich in bioflavonoids, you should get plenty, plus vitamin C to aid absorption.
The absorption and availability of bioflavonoids depends on several factors in addition to being associated with vitamin C. A healthy balance of good bacteria in the intestinal tract can also improve absorption, although studies have shown that high levels of protein in the diet can decrease their availability. .
It would be virtually impossible to take enough supplements to get all the thousands of bioflavonoids naturally found in foods. So make bioflavonoid-rich foods a regular part of your daily diet to get the amazing range of bioflavonoids and vitamin C.
Environmental Nutrition is an independent newsletter written by nutrition experts.