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Nutrition

How to Improve Your Health with Flavonoids

Overview

Flavonoids are a subclass of phytochemicals, compounds that protect against conditions like cardiovascular disease, cancer and asthma. There are more than 4,000 unidentified flavonoids, many of which occur in colorful vegetables, fruits and beverages. It's believed that these flavonoids can positively benefit your health with their antiviral, anti-allergy and antioxidant properties.

phigonggoi / flickr

 

How Flavonoids Work

Flavonoids have antioxidant-like capabilities that protect the body from the damaging effects of free radicals. Free radicals are produced naturally by the body, and when you exercise your body produces more of these free radicals. Outside factors such as pollution, job stress and cigarette smoke can also increase the production of free radicals. The problem: Free radical damage may lead to cancer. Flavonoids interfere with the production of free radicals and prevent these disease-causing substances from attaching to cells in the body. They can help reduce the risk of cancer, aging, atherosclerosis, inflammation, and even neurodegenerative disease like Parkinson's.

Flavonoids and Athletic Performance

There are split views on the benefits of flavonoids in athletic performance. Recent studies have shown that flavonoids not only combat free radicals in the body, but that they may also be beneficial in promoting muscle growth, speeding up post-workout recovery and improving endurance.

A study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that in a six-week program of antioxidant supplementation, 11 elite cyclists showed a significant improvement (3.1 percent) in time needed to complete a 30-kilometer time trial, including a two-percent improvement over the last five kilometers. In another study, published in the same journal, researchers at the University of Indiana found that chocolate milk (dark chocolate contains flavonoids) provided increased post-exercise recovery results for cyclists.

While it's still unclear how flavonoids relate to athletic performance, it's true that flavonoids are an important part of maintaining overall health. This in turn prepares the body better for training, improved recovery and increased energy. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic support the use of flavonoids for their antioxidant powers, reduction of platelet activation, relaxation capabilities of blood vessels, and their possible affect on balancing hormone-like compounds that affect cardiovascular health.

Flavonoid Sources

The best way to get the benefits of flavonoids is by eating a variety of fresh, colorful foods. A person who eats 5 cups of brightly colored fruits and vegetables a day will get an adequate intake of flavonoids. Flavonoids can also be found in a variety of foods and beverages like onions and green tea.

Try to include some of these flavonoid-filled foods in your diet. 

  • Grape juice
  • Blueberries
  • Apples
  • Herbs, spices, hot peppers, onions
  • Broccoli
  • Cinnamon
  • Soy
  • Hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, almonds
  • Red wine
  • Dark chocolate
  • Oranges, grapefruits, lemons

Tags: Food, Nutrients, Health

References

  1. Amanda Carlson-Phillips, director of performance nutrition, Athletes' Performance
  2. Cleveland Clinic
  3. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism
  4. Produce for Better Health Foundation
  5. Science Daily
  6. Linus Pauling Institute
  7. The Ohio State University

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