Flavanoid Frenzy

Most of us have heard about the study referred to as the “French Paradox”.  The research focused on the French people, and their low rate of coronary heart disease while eating a diet high in saturated fats.  In particular, the researchers focused on the French people’s consumption of Red Wines that have high concentrations of flavanoids.   The conclusion of this study suggests a protective role of dietary flavonoids against coronary heart disease.  While there are very good reasons to increase your family’s flavanoid intake, you obviously don’t want to put red wine in your toddlers sippy cup.   Thankfully flavanoids can be found in a variety of foods, and even my friends with multiple food allergies should be able to find flavanoids that they can tolerate.
What are flavanoids?  Flavonoids are phytonutrients in plant-based foods that often contribute to the foods bright color. They provide antioxidants, which protect your cells.  Flavanoids play a significant role in cardiovascular health, decreasing inflammation, boosting the immune system, and they help to prevent against diseases such as cancer caused by free-radical damage.  Flavanoids were discovered in 1938 by Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, a Hungarian Scientist who noted the anti-scorbutic activity of ascorbic acid and discovered that paprika (capsicum annuum) was a rich source of vitamin C.  His studies of biological oxidation led to the recognition of the catalytic function of the C4-dicarboxylic acids, the discovery of «cytoflav» (flavin) and a recognition of the biological activity and probable vitamin nature of flavanone (which he referred to as Vitamin P).
To translate the science lesson above, flavanoids function in the human body as antioxidants, or cell protectors.  They help neutralize overly reactive molecules and prevent these molecules from damaging our cells. The chemistry of flavonoids is complicated, suffice to say that within the flavonoids group there are 6 sub groups or classes:  flavonols, flavanones, flavones, isoflavones, and flavonols/anthocyanidins.  The benefits of flavonoids have been understood for centuries by those practicing Eastern medicine.  Scultellaria root, cornus fruit, licorice, green tea, and cocoa beans are examples of flavonoid-containing foods prescribed by traditional Doctors in the Orient. While flavonoids protect cells, one of their most potent effects may be the ability to increase levels of glutathione, a powerful tripeptide antioxidant found within all of our cells.  Since glutathione exists within the cells, it is in a prime position to neutralize free radicals.

So as we gear up for another school year make sure to boost your families intake of flavanoids to help fight off those pesky colds and viruses.  Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs and spices.  Good sources of flavonoids include: apples, apricots, blueberries, blackberries, pears, raspberries, strawberries, black beans, cabbage, onions, parsley, pinto beans, and tomatoes.  To boost your glutathione levels incorporate avocado, asparagus, broccoli, garlic, spinach, curcumin (Tumeric), and fresh unprocessed meats.  Eat well and be healthy.

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