Benefits of Bioflavonoids
Ever wonder why it’s important to “eat the rainbow?” Well, one reason is the tiny colorful compounds in plant foods called bioflavonoids. While they aren’t a vitamin, they do play vitamin-like roles in the body regarding immune support, cellular protection, and even longevity.
There are thousands of bioflavonoid compounds in food and herbs. We are only scratching the surface in understanding all the incredible benefits they have to offer us. Today’s article will dive into what we know and how you can easily increase bioflavonoids in your diet and pay attention to them when choosing supplements.
“Ever wonder why it’s important to 'eat the rainbow?' Well, one reason is the tiny colorful compounds in plant foods called bioflavonoids.”
Keep reading to learn more about:
- What are bioflavonoids
- Bioflavonoid subcategories and food sources
- The importance of consuming vitamin C and citrus bioflavonoids together
- A list of health benefits of bioflavonoids
- Three steps for increasing bioflavonoids in your diet
Let’s dive in!
What Are Bioflavonoids?
Bioflavonoids, also known as flavonoids, are polyphenol phytonutrients (plant nutrients) found in plants. Bioflavonoids are responsible for many colorful pigments throughout the botanical world and food supply. Bioflavonoids are in fruit, herbs, flowers, vegetables, and seeds. Over 10,000 distinct bioflavonoid compounds have been isolated and identified. (Source 1)
Bioflavonoids are bioactive compounds referred to as secondary metabolites. They are often involved in fruit ripening, communication, UV protection, and protecting plants against pathogens. Bioflavonoids act as powerful antioxidant protection against free radicals in humans. (Source 1)
Flavonoids were originally given the name vitamin P, but they turned out to not be vitamins. (Source 1) Although not essential for life, they play an important role in human health.
Bioflavonoid Types and Food Sources
Bioflavonoids fall into one of several subcategories, depending on their chemical structure. Types of bioflavonoids, specific compounds, and food sources include:
- Flavanols - The flavonols include the following: quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin, isorhamnetin, and rutin. (Source 1, 2) Quercetin is a famous flavonol found in onions, apples, berries, capers and widely distributed in other seasonal produce and culinary and medicinal herbs. (Source 3) Rutin is found in apples, buckwheat, passionflowers, and tea. (Source 4)
Flavones – Flavones include luteolin and apigenin. Along with flavonols, they provide the pigment in white- and cream-colored flowers and are also a co-pigment (with anthocyanidins) in blue flowers and fruits. The highest levels of flavones are found in parsley and chamomile. Other good sources are black tea, olives and olive oil, mint, fennel, kiwi, spinach, celery, and rooibos. (Source 5)
Flavanones – Flavonones include eriodyctiol, hesperidin, naringin, and others found highly concentrated in citrus fruits, such as limes and tangerines, and throughout the plant world. Grapefruit contains narirutin and naringin; oranges contain hesperidin and narirutin; and lemons contain eriocitrin. (Source 6)
- Flavan-3-ols – Favan-3-ols include the catechins and epicatechins. A famous flavon-3-ol is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), that is highly concentrated in green tea. (Source 7)
- Isoflavones – Isoflavones, including genistein, daidzein, and glycitin are found in soy, red clover, and flax seeds. They have phytoestrogen properties, meaning they stimulate estrogen receptors in the body to modulate the estrogen response. (Source 8)
Anthocyanidins – Common anthocyanidins include cyanidin, delphinidin, malidin, pelargonidin, peonidin, and petunidin. These flavonoids are responsible for many red and blue pigmented foods, including blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, grapes, red apples, plums, purple cabbage, and more. (Source 9)
Whole plant foods typically contain a collection of bioflavonoids from different categories. Blueberries, for example, contain:
- Anthocyanidins (cyanidin, delphinidin, malvidin, peonidin, and petunidin),
- Flavan-3-ols (epicatechin and catechin), and
- Flavonols (kaempferol, myricetin, and quercetin). (Source 2)
Red grapes, grape juice, and red wine contain four bioflavonoid categories: anthocyanidins, flavan-3-ols, flavones, and flavonols, as another example. (Source 2)
Bioflavonoids work together, along with vitamins, synergistically.
Citrus Bioflavonoids and Vitamin C
A wonderful example of synergy between nutrients is vitamin C and citrus flavonoids.
Vitamin C is an essential dietary vitamin vital for human health. In addition to its antioxidant activity, vitamin C is necessary for collagen production and immune system health.
Vitamin C is naturally found in high concentrations in citrus fruits. The same fruits contain citrus bioflavonoids, mostly flavanones, including naringin and hesperidin. Vitamin C and the citrus flavonones are anti-inflammatory and promote an effective immune response. (Source 10)
Hesperidin is an abundant flavanone in the peel and pith of oranges, tangerines, and other citrus fruits. As a dietary supplement hesperidin has been shown to increase blood flow and decrease inflammation. It is being investigated in terms of cardiovascular disease. (Source 11, 12)
However, the effects of hesperidin (and other naturally occurring bioflavonoids in citrus) combined with vitamin C may be even more significant. One study compared orange juice, which naturally contains a spectrum of flavonoids and vitamin C, to a control drink plus a hesperidin supplement. A third group received the placebo drink and placebo supplement. Participants who drank the orange juice saw a reduction in blood pressure compared to the other groups, suggesting the synergistic effects of the nutrients in oranges. (Source 13)
Interestingly, many studies on hesperidin and orange juice have shown contradictory results. New research suggests that the interaction between hesperidin and the gut microbiome may influence the effectiveness of this flavanone in terms of cholesterol levels, vascular health, heart disease, and other cardiometabolic factors. (Source 12)
Bioflavonoid Health Benefits
Bioflavonoids offer various health benefits, depending on the types of bioflavonoids and their bioavailability.
Research suggests that bioflavonoids offer the following benefits to human health:
- Antioxidant – The antioxidant capacity of bioflavonoids is due to their molecular structure. They protect cells and lipids from oxidative stress and in many cases more strongly than vitamin C and vitamin E, which are also antioxidants. (Source 1)
- Anti-inflammatory – Inflammation is an underlying mechanism in chronic diseases, including obesity, autoimmune disease, cancer, diabetes, and more. One reason fruits and vegetables may be so protective against chronic disease is the anti-inflammatory nature of colorful bioflavonoids. (Source 1)
- Antimicrobial – Bioflavonoids are protective against viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. For example, anthocyanidins and catechins have antiviral properties against influenza. (Source 1)
- Neuroprotective – Reducing oxidation and inflammation, two key roles of flavonoids, also protects the brain. Kuromanin, a subgroup of anthocyanins, acts as a neuroprotective agent preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Other flavonoids, called procyanidins, improve cognitive function. (Source 1)
- Cardioprotective – We discussed the heart-healthy benefits of citrus bioflavonoids above. Other bioflavonoids are supportive as well. For example, the phytonutrients found in apple peel act as a natural ace inhibitor, lowering blood pressure. (Source 1)
- Anticancer – By inhibiting abnormal cell growth, bioflavonoids help protect against cancer. Hesperidin from citrus may help prevent gastric cancer. Quercetin is effective against colorectal cancer. (Source 1)
- Microbiome support – Certain bioflavonoids, primarily the anthocyanidin category, have been shown to be a prebiotic food source to beneficial bacteria, thus modulating the gut microbiome. (Source 9)
- Longevity – Simply put, those who eat the most polyphenols of which bioflavonoids are the largest class have a lower risk of mortality and are likely to live longer, healthier lives.
How to Increase Bioflavonoids
Consuming an abundance and variety of plant foods is associated with wellness and prevention, yet most of us aren’t getting enough of these foods – and the amazing bioflavonoids they contain. Here are some ways to step up your flavonoid levels:
- Eat the rainbow. Different plant pigments are associated with different bioflavonoids that provide a spectrum of health benefits. Try to include red, orange, yellow, green, and blue/purple foods daily or weekly. (Source 15)
“Consuming an abundance and variety of plant foods is associated with wellness and prevention, yet most of us aren’t getting enough of these foods – and the amazing bioflavonoids they contain.”
- Eat the whole food. Like we saw in the example of oranges, vitamins and bioflavonoids work in synergy in the plant and in your body. I recommend eating at least 40 unique whole plant foods each week, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, herbs, and spices.
- Consider bioflavonoids when choosing supplements. CoreMed Science appreciates bioflavonoids and nature’s perfect design. Our Liposomal Vitamin C formulation includes our vitamin C supplement along with a hesperidin complex of citrus bioflavonoids for more powerful immune support. In addition, the liposomal delivery system increases the absorption and bioavailability of the vitamin C and bioflavonoids.
The good news is that we don’t have to fully understand each of the 10,000 bioflavonoids to reap their benefits. Start with a diverse diet abundant in color and focus on individual bioflavonoid-rich foods or supplements depending on your unique health goals. When choosing vitamin C supplements, look for one that contains the bioflavonoids from the whole food.
“The good news is that we don’t have to fully understand each of the 10,000 bioflavonoids to reap their benefits. Start with a diverse diet abundant in color and focus on individual bioflavonoid-rich foods or supplements depending on your unique health goals.”
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