On a recent Oprah show featuring questions with Dr Oz, one of the questions that got half the audience stymied was: what are flavonoids?
Some thought they lived near your adenoids, others thought since they sound like something to do with flavour, they might live on your tongue, and others (about 60%) knew the correct answer which is that flavonoids are the parts of plants that contain antioxidants.
Flavonoid Facts & The Great Antioxidant Myth
One often overlooked fact about flavonoids is that it is not their antioxidant properties per se that help the body fend off free radicals, but rather the action antioxidants trigger in the body that is beneficial.
Antioxidants in test tubes do very different things to the ones that get to act in your body. Therefore, the whole industry of taking antioxidant supplements is based on a myth that offers little benefit in reality. The Linus Pauling Institute conducted research in 2007 that concludes that “flavonoids are poorly absorbed by the human body (less than 5%), and most of what is absorbed is quickly metabolized and excreted from the body.”
We tend to get macho about our health in the West. If some antioxidants are good, then surely taking loads must be better. Not so. This research concludes that “only small amounts of flavonoids are necessary to see these medical benefits.” And “taking large dietary supplements provides no extra benefit and may pose some risks.”
How Plants “Pay it Forward”
Flavonoids and bioflavonoids in plants are considered secondary metabolites. That is they are not crucial to the immediate survival of the plant, but are part of it’s line of defence. The colourful pigmentation in fruits and vegetables that alerts us to their health giving properties are the parts of plants that give them protection from parasites and disease. I find it fascinating that our own protection against disease is enhanced by eating the fruits of plants that contain inbuilt protective properties. What a generous arrangement!
How can you be sure your getting the benefits of flavonoids in your diet?
It’s very simple. Just be sure to eat a good variety of fresh colourful foods, blueberries, raspberries, green vegetables etc and you will have all you the antioxidant power you need.