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Take in flavonoids for physical and mental acuity

You may have heard about flavonoids before, but did you know that a higher intake of dietary flavonoids is associated with improved physical and mental health and a greater quality of life?

Flavonoids – are they important?

Flavonoids are a large group of plant compounds, also called “phytonutrients,” with more than 6,000 known compounds that are widely distributed throughout the plant kingdom. In fact, flavonoids are an integral part of our daily plant-based diet as they can be found in fruits like apples, berries, citrus fruits and grapes; herbs like parsley, thyme and oregano; teas such as green and chamomile and vegetables like onions, broccoli, kale and lettuce.

They are responsible for the bright colors of many plant-based foods and play an important role in their growth, protection and development. Similarly, they offer a variety of health benefits for humans because of their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

Look at how plant nutrients can improve quality of life.

Reduced risk of heart disease

Studies have found that flavonoid-rich foods are beneficial for heart health. A recent study conducted on more than 800 older women reported a reduced risk of abdominal aortic calcification – a predictor of cardiovascular risk such as heart attack and stroke, as well as late-life dementia – in women who consumed a diet high in flavonoids such as green tea. Other studies associated a higher flavonoid intake with a lower risk of all-cause mortality – death resulting from coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women and all other causes.

Improved brain health

Flavonoids may improve brain health by facilitating the blood flow to the brain and reducing the risk of cognitive decline. A recent clinical trial showed that blueberry supplementation, which is rich in flavonoid anthocyanins, led to better cognitive functions in both older men and women. Similarly, other flavonoid compounds that occur in strawberries, oranges, peppers and apples were associated with a slower cognitive decline.

Reduced risk of cancer

A high dietary intake of flavonoids may reduce the risk of breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer, as several studies concluded. One study suggested that flavonoid compounds may be beneficial in cancer recurrence in overweight and obese breast cancer survivors. Several Asian studies associated a high intake of soy products – which contain high concentrations of isoflavones such as genistein and daidzein – with a reduced risk of breast cancer, as well as a higher chance of breast cancer survival.

Reduced menopausal symptoms

Research shows that flavonoids, particularly isoflavones, help relieve menopausal symptoms and reduce hot flashes and night sweats – two common symptoms of menopause. Isoflavones (phytoestrogens) also help slow bone mineral density loss in postmenopausal women and improve glycemic control and systolic blood pressure during early menopause.

How can I get enough flavonoids in my diet?

Eating various plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables and herbs, is a great way to incorporate more flavonoids into our daily diet. Even with our best efforts to adopt a healthy, nutrient-dense diet, however, people may need more plant nutrients to impact their well-being. One reason for that is the global decrease in nutrient density in our food because of the use of synthetic fertilizers and other chemicals in agriculture to increase yield, which can affect soil quality and availability of nutrients to plants.

Some studies suggest that organically grown plant foods contain higher amounts of health-promoting phenolic compounds, such as flavonoids, than conventional food. Another reason is the limited “bioavailability” of flavonoids from food. Dietary supplements, therefore, can provide concentrated sources of one or more isolated flavonoids and be a valuable addition to diets – especially those that lack a variety of plant-based, nutrient-dense food – and may prevent micronutrient deficiencies and related health conditions.

The benefits of flavonoid-containing supplements to improve health and tackle nutrient deficiencies have been highlighted in my latest scientific paper – co-written by Joseph E. Pizzorno, ND, founder of Bastyr University and one of the world’s leading authorities on science-based natural/integrative medicine.

Some of the most important flavonoid supplements include: Quercetin LipoMicel – clinically proven and provides high absorption in the body; Resveratrol – a flavonoid found in grapes, red wine and berries and Epigallocatechin gallate – a flavonoid found in green tea.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet rich in organic fruits and vegetables is a great place to start. Look for delicious plant-based Mediterranean recipes rich in flavonoids. Adding a high-quality dietary supplement is also a good choice, especially as flavonoids rank just behind vitamins and minerals as some of the most promising and thoroughly researched plant nutrients that promote health.

Dr. Julia Solnier has a doctorate in pharmaceutical sciences from the University of Graz in Austria. She is an expert in pharmacognosy (medicinal plant research) with lecturing experience on herbal medicine. Solnier is a research scientist and focuses on conducting clinical trials and developing innovative delivery solutions.


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