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Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals, but those are not the only health benefits they bring to your diet. They also contain flavonoids, antioxidant pigments that give plants their color. Different types of flavonoids have been identified based on their varying chemical structures. Over the past decade, scientists have become increasingly interested in the potential for various dietary flavonoids to explain some of the health benefits associated with fruit- and vegetable-rich diets.
Anthocyanins are the most abundant types of flavonoids in fruits and vegetables, according to researchers from the National Institutes of Health. The anthocyanins cyanidin, delphinidin, malvidin, pelargonidin, peonidin and petunidin are responsible for the red, blue and purple colors in berries and grapes. Anthocyanins may prevent cancer, according to the NIH researchers. They found that anthocyanins are capable of scavenging free radicals and stimulating enzymes that fight toxins, including cancer cells.
Flavanols are a type of flavonoid abundant in green tea, white tea, chocolate, apples and grapes. These foods predominantly contain flavanols called catechins and proanthocyanidins, which may benefit your brain function, according to a study published in the “Journal of Neuroscience” in 2012. The researchers in the study found that mice on catechin-rich diets had improved learning and memory abilities. The researchers called for further studies to determine whether these flavanols may be useful to treat people with cognitive problems, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Flavanones are a type of flavonoid common in citrus fruit and foods derived from lemons, oranges and grapefruit. Citrus fruit contains eriodictyol, a flavanone that may help protect your vision, according to researchers who published a paper in “Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science” in 2009. They found a link between orange consumption and a lowered risk of macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness, and suggested that eriodictyol may be responsible. Flavonols, a type of flavonoid abundant in apples, yellow onions, broccoli, kale, teas and berries, offer antioxidant benefits. Quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin and isorhamnetin are examples of flavanols.
Flavones and isoflavones are other types of flavonoids. The flavones apigenin and luteolin are found in thyme, celery, parsley and hot peppers. Many beans and legumes, including soybeans, are abundant in isoflavones. Flavones may decrease your risk of developing cardiovascular problems, according to Finnish researchers who published a study in the journal “Epidemiology” in 2001. They found that men who took in higher amounts of flavonols and flavones were less likely to die of a heart attack than men who took in low amounts of these phytonutrients.
Article reviewed by Leon Teeboom Last updated on: Oct 18, 2012