Flavonoids are antioxidants that exist in many of the foods you enjoy and are often compared to vitamins such as E, C and beta-carotene. These natural plant pigments are known to include over 4,000 different compounds and are found in vegetables, fruits, herbs and many beverages. Flavonoids are now highly recognized for their antioxidant properties and their potential to reduce your risk of certain diseases. [“Plant Flavonoids, Especially Tea Flavonols, Are Powerful Antioxidants Using an in Vitro Oxidation Model for Heart Disease.” - Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry]
Familiar categories of flavonoids include flavonols, flavonones, isoflavones and anthocyanidins, and the effect of each individual compound varies according to its molecular structure. Like all antioxidants, flavonoids may benefit you by helping to protect cells from harmful molecules such as free radicals, peroxides and metallic ions. Excessive cellular damage caused by these molecules is commonly linked to rapid aging as well as many ailments such as cancer, inflammatory conditions, and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
The regular consumption of flavonoid-rich foods and beverages is therefore widely thought to help reduce the risk of many diseases and slow the effects of aging. More recently, it was discovered that hop flowers, used in beer brewing, contain a unique flavonoid compound that shows promise as a cancer preventative. Flavonoids may also be beneficial in other ways: apigenin, a compound commonly found in chamomile tea, peppermint and parsley, is a known mood enhancer with mild anxiolytic properties.
Flavonoids are synthesized in significant amounts by a wide variety of plants inside their flowers, fruits, leaves and other tissues. You will generally find higher concentrations among plants where deep colors are present such as dark-skinned fruits, black or green tea, dark leafy greens and cocoa. The strongest flavonoid compounds are those found in tea leaves and cocoa powder, which both contain some of the highest known concentrations of natural antioxidants.
“Plant Flavonoids, Especially Tea Flavonols, Are Powerful Antioxidants Using an in Vitro Oxidation Model for Heart Disease.” - Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (ACS Publications). N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2013. <http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf00059a005>.
“Antioxidant Activities of Flavonoids.” Antioxidant Activities of Flavonoids. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2013. <http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/f-w00/flavonoid.html>.
“Flavonoids: Antioxidants Help the Mind.” Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness Find a Therapist. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2013. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200307/flavonoids-antioxidants-help-the-mind>.