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It’s no secret that eating plenty of fresh produce is a good idea no matter what kind of diet you’re following. They’re all-around excellent choices for your health – and if you’re looking to keep your brain sharp, maintain a healthy heart and even slash your cancer risk, fruits and vegetables are the perfect picks. That’s thanks to flavonoids, a kind of plant compound that work like antioxidants to fight oxidative damage in the body.
Certain foods are better than others when it comes to these highly beneficial compounds, and some fruits and veggies offer better bang for your flavonoid buck. Find out which foods are serious flavonoid standouts, including those beyond fruits and vegetables, packing plenty of these good-for-your nutrients.
Make sure you’re eating a variety of different flavonoids
Before we talk about the most flavonoid-rich foods you can consume, it’s important to know what, exactly, you want to look for in these fruits, veggies, drinks and other items. Not all flavonoids are equal, and there’s a surprising number of types of flavonoids.
There are six types, or subclasses, of flavonoids:
- Anthocyanidins (or anthocyanins)
While these all sound pretty similar, they are different from one another. Each type of flavonoid has its own unique chemical structure and works a bit differently within the body. For example, flavonols are particularly beneficial for heart health; flavones and flavanones can help target inflammation. And each one of the subclasses is found in different kinds of food.
Of course, some foods can contain a variety of different flavonoids. But according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, most U.S. adults take in more flavan-3-ols than any other kind of flavonoid. This particular subclass makes up 80 percent of the average person’s flavonoid intake, and they’re one of the most common types you’ll come across. However, by choosing an array of flavonoid-rich foods, you can get a balance of every type for all-around health benefits.
These are the most flavonoid-packed foods
If you love berries, there’s great news – these fruits are loaded with flavonoids, and you’ll find the potent nutrients in every kind of berry imaginable. Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and even cherries are filled with them.
Which kind of berry carries the highest amount? Blackberries are particularly fantastic, as they contain all six subclasses of flavonoids and contain high amounts of anthocyanins, which are great for blood vessel health and cardiovascular health. This variety has also been found to offer potentially protective effects against cancer. Blueberries are another great choice, as they offer a lot of anthocyanins and flavan-3-ols.
Is it really any surprise that kale is full of flavonoids? It’s hard to beat the many health perks this dark leafy green offers, and you can add flavonoids to the already-long list. Kale is rich in flavanols, the subclass that offers a lot of antioxidant properties; it’s also potentially beneficial for cardiovascular disease and overall heart health.
Red cabbage is another great source of anthocyanins, or the subclass of flavonoids that’s potentially cancer-protective and great for your heart health. It’s a veggie that offers an impressive 72.98 milligrams of total anthocyanins per 100-gram serving. Red cabbage might not be as popular as the more familiar green cabbage, but it’s a variety that packs other great benefits too, including plenty of vitamin K and fiber.
Chocolate lovers, you’re getting a whole lot of flavonoids every time you treat yourself to a chocolatey, cocoa-filled treat! Both chocolate and cocoa are rich in flavonoids, though dark chocolate is the most potent.
A 100-gram serving of dark chocolate offers over 100 milligrams of flavan-3-ols, a variety that you might better recognize as catechins. Catechins are especially nutrient-rich and beneficial for a wide array of different health concerns, from inflammation to metabolic syndrome to cancer prevention.
Cocoa is similarly full of flavan-3-ols, and it can be beneficial for fatty liver disease, metabolic syndrome, brain health and even bone strength. However, keep in mind that in order to reap the benefits of cocoa and its flavonoid content, you’ll need to opt for unsweetened cocoa.
You’ve likely heard about all of the amazing benefits of drinking green tea. But it isn’t just this variety that’s good for you – just about any kind of tea can offer you a whole lot of flavonoids.
Black, green and oolong are all rich in flavan-3-ols. Green, white and oolong tea are rich in this particular subclass of flavonoids because of their high catechin content. Black tea may offer you a little more variety in the types of flavonoids you’re getting, as it provides you with flavonols, in addition to theaflavins and thearubigins, which are flavan-3-ols not found in green, white or oolong teas.
But no matter which warm bev you like best, you’ll get a great serving of flavonoids.
Citrus fruits might best be known for their high levels of vitamin C, but they’re also rich in flavanones, the subclass of flavonoids that’s helpful for fighting inflammation. Flavanones are surprisingly concentrated in citrus fruits, and they can become even more highly concentrated when you juice your citrus.
For example, you’ll get a higher amount of flavonoids if you opt for grapefruit juice (anywhere from 19 to 31 milligrams per 100-gram serving) as opposed to raw slices of grapefruit. Prefer fresh fruit to juice? Oranges offer particularly great bang for your buck, offering 42.57 milligrams of flavonoids per serving, while fresh orange juice provides 29.48 milligrams.
Soybeans – no matter what form they might come in – are the best source of one particular flavonoid subclass. They’re rich in isoflavones, which can help balance hormones throughout the body. While isoflavones aren’t really found in other foods (black beans do offer a small amount), you’ll get a good dose in everything from edamame to tofu to tempeh to soymilk. Opt for organic soy where possible as it can be a GMO crop.
Parsley might not be a food you highlight in many dishes beyond sprinkling it on as a garnish, but it deserves more attention. This simple green herb is more than versatile; it’s one of the most flavonoid-rich foods you can eat. It’s especially full of flavones, the flavonoid subclass that’s fantastic for inflammation. Fresh parsley provides over 227 milligrams of flavones per 100-gram serving, while dried parsley offers an even more impressive 13,525 milligrams per 100 grams.
Discover more of the benefits of flavonoid-rich foods and keep reading: