Food News: Flavonoids

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High flavonoid intakes in the diet have been associated with lower incidence of heart disease, a decreased risk of stroke, lower incidence of cancer, and lower cholesterol levels.

Flavonoids have been the most widely studied group of phytochemicals because of their anti-cancer activity. The USDA?defines flavonoids as a large group of non-nutrient chemicals in plants called phytochemicals that have biological activities related to health. Food composition databases will soon include flavonoids, but today the information on the amounts of flavonoids in foods is not readily available.

Flavonoids are found in seedcoats, roots, leaves and fruits of many plants. A few examples are beta-carotene (found in green leafy and orange vegetables), isoflavones (found in soy foods), anthocyannins (found in berries and other red, pink, blue and purple fruits and vegetables), and quercetin (found in red wine, tea, green vegetables and citrus fruit).

Not a bad thing to try, you say. But if you try to look for the word flavonoid on packages in the grocery stores, you will probably come up empty-handed. So, where do you find flavonoids? Think plants!! Flavonoids are found in tea (black, oolong and green) most fruits and vegetables, cocoa powder, soyfoods, peanuts and red wine. The flavonoid content of tea is higher than that of fruits and vegetables, although drinking tea should in no way replace the need for 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day!!

The 2 best places to go in the supermarket to stock up on flavonoid-containing foods are the produce aisle and the tea aisle.

Teas have high concentrations of the flavonoid catechin and small amounts of quercetin. Choose green, oolong or black tea, and you will have one of the highest flavonoid-containing items in the store. There are a variety of teas available now. True "teas" are made from the dried leaves of the Camellia sinensis, the tea plant. They are green, oolong or black according to how they were handled after they were picked. Green tea is unfermented, meaning the leaves are not allowed to oxidize after they are picked. Black tea is fermented the longest. Here are a few of our favorites:

• Black tea has a stronger flavor. This is an excellent choice for those trying to switch from coffee to tea. English breakfast tea is probably the most popular form of black tea.
• Oolong tea looks like black tea in its dried state. A cup of oolong gives it away though; it has a rich golden color and sweet flavor.
• Green tea has a mild, pleasant flavor. It is delicious hot or cold.
• Flavored teas and herb teas have not been studied as the ones mentioned above, so their flavonoid content is not known. But they are a healthier choice than coffee.

One of the nicest things about the produce aisle is the sky is the limit!! The more produce you eat, the better when it comes to your health. The produce aisle is always changing with the seasons, so it will never be boring.

When you are shopping for produce, think color. A variety of colors will provide you with a variety of flavonoids.

• Red, pink, blue, purple - Anthocyanins are a type of flavonoid that offer red, pink, blue and purple pigments to a variety of items, including blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, cherries, red grapes, beets and more. Fresh is best since these compounds are heat and light sensitive.
• Orange/dark green - Beta-carotene is found in carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, winter squash and dark leafy greens.
• Catechins are present in red grapes and red wine as well as other red fruits.
• Citrus foods and juices contain hesperetin and naringenin as well as quercetin.
• Onions have the highest concentration of quercetin, about 300 mg/kg food. More of this is found in the skin than the onion itself so use the whole onion for soups, stews and broths. Remove the skin before serving.
• Some green vegetables also contain quercetin or kaempferol.

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