Get comfortable and hold tight, this one is going to get a little ‘sciencey’!

Bioflavonoids, aka flavonoids or “vitamin P”, are a large class of powerful phytochemicals (compounds in plants), and their health and antioxidant benefits are impressive and far-reaching.

One of the most widely discussed benefits of flavonoids is their antioxidant properties. They’re heaped with beneficial anti-inflammatory traits which safeguard healthy cells from oxidative damage that can lead to disease.

The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of flavonoids have also encouraged studies on their potential as cancer combatting drugs. Research has shown that certain flavonoids may help stop cancer cells from multiplying, and by including foods with flavonoids daily, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly, it may decrease the risk of getting certain cancers.

What do berries, apples, citrus fruit, grapes, spinach, legumes, kale, broccoli, soybeans, onions, tea, cocoa, and wine have in common? They’re the highest ranking bioflavonoid foods.

In nature, flavonoids play a variety of biological activities in plants, animals and bacteria –  and it’s flavonoids that are responsible for the aroma of flowers and the vibrant colours of flowers and fruits.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF FLAVONOIDS AND WHAT DO THEY DO?

Flavonoids are grouped into different subclasses based on their own chemical structure and how they’re broken down.

Flavonoids are classified into subclasses based on chemical structures, six of which, are anthocyanidins, flavan-3-ols, flavanols, flavones, flavanones, and isoflavones.

ANTHOCYANINS

Anthocyanins are the flavonoids that give most flowers their vibrant colours, specifically flowers with a purple hue. Similarly, they’re found in the skin of most berries, which is what gives them their shades of purple and pink and red.

Anthocyanins have been known to lower blood pressure, they also may help with memory function, cardiovascular disease, and  are thought to slow cancer growth.

Anthocyanins are found in berries, plums, cherries, red and purple grapes, red wine, and oranges.

FLAVANONES

Super high in antioxidant properties, flavanones are mostly associated with citrus fruits – your grapefruits, lemons, limes, and oranges. They may be influential in lowering inflammation, lowering cholesterol, and lowering fat levels in blood.

FLAVANOLS

Flavanols, also called flavan-3-ols or catechins, are a natural compound commonly found in foods and drinks such as cocoa, grapes, and teas. Research from 2022 suggests that flavanols may have antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties.

Flavanols act as antioxidants, which means they can neutralize harmful free radicals, which can damage cells, contributing to illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Flavanols can also be found in black tea, green tea, cinnamon, grapes, red wine, and apples.

FLAVONES

Along with being responsible for the vibrant pigments in blue and white flowers, flavones are mostly found in different types of herbs and some veggies.

Flavones have impressive health benefits like antioxidation, cardio protection, antibacterial, antiviral and anticancer activities.

When filling your spice rack, look for spices that are high in flavones to get their anti-inflammatory benefits – think hot peppers, thyme, parsley, celery, oregano, peppermint, chamomile.

FLAVAN-3-OLS

Flavan-3-ols are commonly found in tea, apples, pears, berries, chocolate, and cocoa products.

Research suggests that including a diet rich in Flavan-3-ols, can improve blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar.

Because Flavan-3-Oils are such a powerhouse sub-group of antioxidants, they are believed to act as anticarcinogens, they’re cardio-preventative, anti-viral, and neuro-protective agents.

ISOFLAVONES

Isoflavones are plant-based compounds found almost exclusively in beans, like soybeans, that mimic the action of the hormone estrogen. They may be useful in alleviating menopause symptoms or preventing osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.

Foods rich in isoflavones may offer other health benefits in that they are both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory.  Some studies have even suggested that isoflavones may help prevent heart disease or have cancer-fighting properties.

You’ll find isoflavones present in legumes, including soybeans, chickpeas, fava beans, pistachios, peanuts, and other fruits and nuts.

SHOULD I BE TAKING FLAVANOID SUPPLEMENTS?

You can buy any number of flavonoid supplements, but as with most nutrients, it’s usually better to get them from a balanced diet.

That said, studies suggest that bioflavonoids may improve the bioavailability of Vitamin C, while working with it to neutralise free radicals and help regulate inflammation and immune responses.

So next time you hit your health store for your Vitamin C supply, read the label to see if citrus flavonoids are present, as this combination replicates the way these nutrients are found in nature, as nature intended.