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Nutrient - What are bioflavonoids?

By Jackie Newson BSc (Hons)

We are surrounded in nature by a cornucopia of plants and herbs that not only provide us with food and add spice and flavour to our meals, but are also a wonderful, easily available source of nutrients.

Plants have developed their own defence systems that help to protect them from harsh and extreme weather as well as from insects, birds and bacterial infestations. Most parts of plants including the root, leaves and flowers can also be utilised in the human body to offer the same protection. Bioflavonoids are one of the many active components in plants, however they are neither vitamins, minerals nor dietary fibre, but nevertheless offer considerable health benefits to humans.

Providing antioxidants

Bioflavonoids or ‘flavonoids’ as they are more commonly known, are a large group of phytochemicals, containing polyphenolic compounds. These compounds are found in all plants and are biologically active in the body. Most phytochemicals have potent antioxidant properties. They also have anti-inflammatory, liver protective and anti-ulcer actions, as well as having anti-allergic and anti-viral properties. In addition to this, flavonoids help to regulate hormones such as androgens, oestrogens and the thyroid hormone. Flavonoids supply the greatest quantity of dietary antioxidants, the majority of which are more powerful than vitamins E or C. They can also act as chelators, which mean they can grab onto or form a link with damaging transition metals, and carry them out of the body. This wide range of biological actions means that potentially they can have great health benefits.

There are over 4000 known flavonoids, often found in the woody, external portion of plants, skin and seeds. Common family members include: flavones, flavanols, anthocyanidins, flavanones, flavanonols and isoflavones. Flavanoids are found in the pigments of foods, so it’s important to select a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables including red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. This cocktail of colours should ensure you obtain maximum protection.

With all these powerful flavonoids available, it makes sense to aim for your ‘five-a-day’ or even better go for 10 or 12! Fill your shopping basket with fruit and veggies and experiment with herbs in your cooking. If you really find it difficult to include these foods due to dietary restrictions or food intolerances, you could always supplement with a good plant sourced formula that includes a rainbow of plant phytochemicals such as green tea, bilberry, turmeric, oregano, broccoli, beetroot, watercress, garlic and carrot. 

Fill your shopping basket with fruit and veggies and experiment with herbs in your cooking.

Some good sources of flavonoids:

FRUIT VEGETABLES HERBS MISCELLANEOUS
Strawberries Cabbage Milk thistle Dark chocolate
Currants Onions Thyme Grape seed extract
Blueberries Tomatoes Tarragon Green Tea
Red grapes Peppers Rosemary Black Tea
Hawthorn berries Greens Peppermint Red wine
Peaches Dried beans Parsley  
Pears Soya beans Oregano  
Plums   Coriander leaves  
Apples   Fennel leaves  
Citrus fruits   Chives  
Cherries   Horseradish root  
Rhubarb   Watercress  

*High levels of flavonoids found in some supplements may interact with medications so check first before starting a new regime. 


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