Flavonoids and Polyphenols: Coloring Your World With Plant Pigments
Antioxidants are often associated with vibrant produce, like bright blue blueberries or vibrant red cherries. While it is true that brightly colored fruits and vegetables often signal the presence of antioxidants, there are actually several different types of the nutritional powerhouse. Two of the most well-known and researched classes include the flavonoids and the polyphenols.
Flavonoids are one of the largest and most important varieties of antioxidants. Thousands of flavonoids have already been discovered, and this number is still increasing as scientific research continues to uncover new and exciting developments in the world of antioxidants. Flavonoids are also responsible for the vibrant colors found on the petals of flowers and the flesh of ruby-red grapefruit.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has identified the following five subclasses of flavonoids:
These are found primarily in citrus fruits and are thought to be excellent for reducing inflammation and relieving allergy and asthma symptoms. Examples include Quercetin, Kaempferol, Myricetin, and Isorhamnetin.
These powerful plant pigments are found in leaves, celery, dandelions and other weeds, bark, and pollen. Some researchers attest that they provide potent anti-inflammation benefits inside the human body. Examples include Luteolin and Apigenin.
These are found primarily in citrus produce like the bitter orange. Examples include Hesperetin, Naringenin, and Eriodictyol.
These antioxidants are on the cutting edge of flavonoid research. They can be found in blue or red colored fruits and vegetables like raspberries, black raspberries, and cherries. Some examples include Cyanidin, Delphinidin, Malvidin, Pelargonidin, Peonidin, and Petunidin.
There are over 3,000 different polyphenol compounds currently identified, and they occur naturally in many varieties of fruits nuts, and vegetables. Polyphenols can be found in wholefoods like apples, grapes, onions, raspberries, cranberries, and walnuts. An interesting fact about polyphenols is that some polyphenols can also be classified as flavonoids.
In fact, the USDA classifies polyphenols into two classes, either a flavonoid or a non-flavonoid:
- Polyphenol Non-flavonoids:
These are found in strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Examples of non-flavonoids include ellagic acid and coumarins.
- Polyphenol Flavonoids:
These can be found in fruits, tea, wine, citrus fruits, soybeans, and vegetables. Examples include anthocyanins, catechins, flavanones, flavones, flavonols, and isoflavones.
Eating a wide variety of fruits, nuts, and vegetables every day will ensure you intake a vast assortment of antioxidants like flavonoids and polyphenols. Remember to select vibrantly colored produce because the intense plant pigments actually are the antioxidants.
As important as antioxidants are to your overall health and wellbeing, another class of nutrients, the omega-3 fatty acids, are also an essential component of good health. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to reduce inflammation, improve cholesterol levels, boost brainpower, and help with some serious neurological disorders like depression.
For more information about how omega-3 fatty acids can help improve your health and wellbeing, please read "All About Omega-3 Fatty Acids,"which is part four of the article series, Antioxidants and Omega-3 Fatty Acids: The "Terrific Twosome" of Nutritional Powerhouses.
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