Friday, January 10, 2014

What the Heck Are Bioflavonoids Anyway?

Bioflavonoids.  There it is: another one of those healthy-living buzzwords that we often hear but may not understand.  In this newest installment of our what-the-heck-is-this series (also check out our similar cheat sheets on Free Radicals, Superfoods, and Antioxidants), we will take a brief look at bioflavonoids to make sure you know what it is, why you should care, and what you can do to benefit from bioflavonoids.

What is a Bioflavonoid?

In a nutshell, bioflavonoids (also known as flavonoids) are a kind of plant-based phytochemical – and yes, that’s a good thing.  Bioflavonoids have many variations, each with its own name.  For example:
  • Resveratrol is the bioflavonoid in the skin of red grapes.
  • Sulforaphane is the bioflavonoid found in many cruciferous vegetables, such as such as cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, and broccoli (think green leaf vegetables).
  • Anthocyanosides are the bioflavonoids you’ll find in blueberries.
  • Quercetin is the bioflavonoid found in citrus fruit, buckwheat, and onions.
Bioflavonoids do many good things to the fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, and nuts that they inhabit.  Bioflavonoids are largely responsible for the taste and the color of the fruit or vegetable, for instance.  In some plants, bioflavonoids also filter UV rays.

But what do bioflavonoids do for me?

Even more important to those seeking to improve their health than its effect on flavor and color, the phytochemical bioflavonoid is also an antioxidant.  And as you know if you’ve read our What the Heck Are Antioxidants Anyway article, antioxidants prevent or heal damage from the ravages of living, such as toxins, diseases, and aging.

What makes bioflavonoids a particularly hot topic in the health community though is that scientific studies indicate that some types of bioflavonoids show the potential to be used to treat certain medical conditions and diseases.  This health benefit of bioflavonoids is worth looking at more closely. 

For example, the bioflavonoid quercetin is being widely studied for several reasons:
  • A 1989 study showed that the quercetin can block the replication process of retroviruses.
  • 2013 quercetin research from the University of Maryland showed this bioflavonoid to be effective as a bronchodilator – good news for asthmatics – and can have an antihistamine effect as well.
  • A 2006 study showed quercetin as an effective means of fighting conditions of fibromyalgia, likely due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Other studies suggest that the flavonoid quercetin may be beneficial in fighting metabolic syndrome and certain types of cancer.  Studies on the bioflavonoid hesperidin indicate that it can aid in capillary permeability and blood flow.  And the bioflavonoid epicatechin also shows the ability to improve blood flow and may be beneficial for general cardiac health.

How can I get more bioflavonoids in my diet?

Given the above base definition of bioflavonoids, you may have properly surmised that you’ll find bioflavonoids in plant-based foods – actually in just about any plant-based food.  But if you really want to boost your bod with bioflavonoids, the best sources of bioflavonoids include:
  • Any citrus fruit or berry
  • Cacao
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Red onion
  • Parsley
  • Red wine
  • Sea-buckthorn
  • White and green tea
While you may be pleased to find out that red wine has bioflavonoids, you should also know that the epicatechin bioflavonoid in cocoa is off the scales for antioxidant content compared to the levels found in red wine.  And given the potential negative consequences of too much alcohol, go for the dark chocolate first!

Bioflavonoid recipes

While you may have limited luck trying to locate bioflavonoid recipes online based on that as a search string, take a look at this site, which lists the various types of bioflavonoids and identifies which plant foods are good sources of each.  You can search the same site for recipes for that particular bioflavonoid’s plant-based foods. 

For example, let’s say you want to increase your intake of the bioflavonoid betanin.  The site lists as one example of food sources for betanin red and purple grapes.  Just follow the grapes link on the page, and you’re presented with several grape recipes. 

Any bioflavonoid health risks?

As with any dietary change, especially those you may be undertaking because of a health condition, it is important to consult with your doctor first.  While the foods that are high in bioflavonoids are generally very good for you, the bioflavonoid quercetin is contraindicated with certain antibiotics.  Other bioflavonoid risks include avoiding bioflavonoid foods you are allergic to, such as chocolate, tea, wine, or brazil nuts.  It likely means you are allergic to flavonoid component and thus the benefits are not worth the risks.  Also, the bioflavonoid flavocoxid found in soybeans can cause gas, nausea, or even diarrhea in some people, so go easy there.

Use common sense to be safe in your addition of bioflavonoids to your diet; if you sense health issues arising after boosting your flavonoid intake with a certain plant food, then your body is likely telling you to discard that dietary change. 

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

No comments:

Post a Comment