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The Versatile Benefits of Flavonoids in Food

August 12, 2017 • 2 min read
Summary

Flavonoids are the plant pigments in foods associated with intake of antixoidants, compounds that prevent oxidation and eliminate free radicals.

Flavonoids are the plant pigments in foods that are associated with intake of antioxidants, the food compounds that prevent oxidation in the body and eliminate free radicals. Measuring dietary flavonoid content in food can be difficult because they are diverse and complex compounds, but recent epidemiological research has identified diverse health benefits to consuming flavonoids.1 Flavonoids are most frequently found in our diets in fruits, vegetables, tea, and wine. While consuming these foods (with the possible exception of wine!) is intuitively “good for you,” research shows that flavonoids may also play a role in inflammation resolution and cardiovascular disease prevention, among other health benefits.

Cardiovascular disease is of particular interest to researchers of dietary determinants of health because of the strong dietary and behavioral component to the disease pathology.2 A recent study published in the journal, Nutrients, found that consumption of flavonoids was inversely associated with cardiovascular disease risk factors like high body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.3 The study did not follow participants in the long term to see what, if any, clinical health outcomes could be observed, like development of cardiovascular disease. Taking a cross-sectional view, that is, a “snapshot” of an individual’s current dietary pattern and health risk factors, can be helpful in identifying patients who might benefit most from preventive health interventions.

More specifically, intake of total flavonoids, anthocyanidins, flavan-3-ols, and flavanone were associated with lower BMI and smaller waist circumference, while the flavonoids flavones and flavonols were not.

For reference and clinical application, we’ve constructed a brief reference table of several common foods and their flavonoid content, based on government dietary guidelines and academic research studies.4-6 All values are in mg of the flavonoid per 100g of the food item.

Flavanones

  • Artichokes 12.51
  • Orange 42.57
  • Lemon 49.81
  • Grapefruit 54.5
  • Dried Oregano 412.31

Flavones

  • Chicory 2.85
  • Chicory 2.85
  • Green Pepper 4.71
  • Artichokes 9.69
  • Fresh Parsley 216.15

Flavanols

  • Apricots 8.41
  • Apricots 8.41
  • Cocoa Powder 52.73
  • Dark Chocolate 108.6
  • Green Tea 116.15

Flavonols

  • Apple 3.4
  • Buckwheat 7.09
  • Asparagus 15.16
  • Radish 78.09
  • Fresh Capers 493.03

Anthocyanins

  • Hazelnuts 6.71
  • Red wine 23.18
  • Raspberries 40.63
  • Red cabbage 62.5
  • Chickpeas 262.49

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  1. Yao, L. H., Jiang, Y. M., Shi, J., Tomás-Barberán, F. A., Datta, N., Singanusong, R., Chen, S. S. (2004). Flavonoids in food and their health benefits. Plant foods for human nutrition (Dordrecht, Netherlands)59(3), 113–122. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11130-004-0049-7
  2. Mertens, E., Markey, O., Geleijnse, J. M., Givens, D. I., Lovegrove, J. A. (2017). Dietary patterns in relation to cardiovascular disease incidence and risk markers in a middle-aged British male population: data from the caerphilly prospective study. Nutrients9(1), 75. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9010075
  3. Sebastian, R. S., Wilkinson Enns, C., Goldman, J. D., Moshfegh, A. J. (2017). Dietary flavonoid intake is inversely associated with cardiovascular disease risk as assessed by body mass index and waist circumference among adults in the United States. Nutrients9(8), 827. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9080827
  4. Bhagwat, S., Haytowitz, D., Joanne, H. (2013). USDA database for the flavonoid content of selected foods. USDA. Retrieved from, https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400525/Data/Flav/Flav3-1.pdf
  5. Chun, O. K., Chung, S. J., Song, W. O. (2007). Estimated dietary flavonoid intake and major food sources of U.S. adults. The Journal of nutrition137(5), 1244–1252. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/137.5.1244
  6. Kozłowska, A., Szostak-Wegierek, D. (2014). Flavonoids—food sources and health benefits. Roczniki Panstwowego Zakladu Higieny65(2), 79–85.

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