Eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables is not only recommended for their rich vitamin and mineral content, but also for their flavenoids, also known as bioflavenoids. These are what give fruits and vegetables their color and taste, and science in only just beginning to identify and understand these remarkable phytochemicals. So far over 600 different flavenoids have been identified, most of them antioxidants offering an array of benefits to human health. Here's a brief overview of some of the major flavenoids.
Allinin: Garlic, one of folk medicines most popular tools, is rich in allinin. It is one of the strongest antioxidants, has antibiotic properties, may help lower cholesterol and shows promise as an anti-cancer agent.
Anthocyanins: Anthocyanins give blueberries, plums and bilberries their deep blue color. These antioxidants are particularly effective in fighting the free-radicals in the eyes, therefore consuming them can prevent retinal conditions such as night blindness and macular degeneration.
Carotenes: Carotenes are carotenoids that give color to orange and red foods such as squash, yams, cantaloupe and carrots. They include alpha carotene (a strong antioxidant), beta carotene (which converts into vitamin A) and lycopene. Lycopene, abundant in tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit, is a powerful antioxidant that may protect against coronary heart disease, cataracts, prostate cancer and other cancers. It prevents the oxidization of LDL (the bad cholesterol), reducing the risk of atherosclerosis. Studies have shown that concentrated sources like tomato puree and ketchup contain more lycopene and is more easily absorbed than fresh tomatoes.
Catechins: Catechins are antioxidant flavenoids found in tea, especially green tea. They help make platelets less sticky, therefore less likely to clot and clog arteries. It may also protect against cancer, stroke and heart disease.
Quercetin: Quercetin, found abundantly in onions and apples, helps quell swelling, fight viruses and alleviate allergies.
Resveratrol: Reversatrol is a flavenoid found in red wine, and it has been shown to prevent clogged arteries, lower cholesterol and halt the growth of tumors. It is interesting to note that the French, who tend to consume a lot of red wine, have less heart disease than most other nationalities.
Xanthophylls: Xanthophylls are carotenoids that give color to dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and collard greens. These antioxidants may help fend off macular degeneration, which is age related blindness.