One of the least favorite childhood memories many people have concerning family dinners is having to choke down stems of broccoli or a mix of carrots and peas. It wasn’t an ingenious plan of childhood torture; you were told you would grow strong and healthy. Your entire life has been guided by the dietary command that “fruits and vegetables are good for you,” and with good reason. Fruits and veggies are loaded with antioxidants called flavonoids, and if you only knew as a child how many flavonoids in cocoa powder existed, you could have talked your parents into a chocolate milkshake every night. Flavonoids are linked to a number of health benefits, most notably reducing the risk of stroke, heart disease, and cancer.

Flavonoids provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiallergic properties. This is obviously an essential addition to any person’s diet to live properly and healthily. With such a variety of  foods such as tea, citrus fruit, citrus fruit juices, berries, red wine, apples, and legumes it is so easy to add flavonoids to your diet.

The Benefits of Antioxidants

The medical community has done a lot of research on the powerful properties of antioxidants, and you are probably well versed in the benefits of vitamins C, E, and beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body. The body depends on these vitamins for a number of things, such as healthy skin, immunity, good vision, and fighting off damaging free radicals. Though flavonoids are just as powerful in their own right, they don’t often get the attention they deserve as antioxidants. It may be that very few people can pronounce their names, with epigallocatechin and quercitin being just two of the over 4,000 compounds that make up the flavonoid category. These nutrients are found naturally in plant pigments, giving fruits and vegetables a good name as a healthy snack option.

The Focus on Brain Health

Flavonoids, in addition to their other activities, are thought to play a strong role in protecting the brain. Antioxidants throughout the body will target and destroy free radicals, but flavonoids extend that protection to a focus on the brain. Research has found that flavonoids have different properties, some working as antimicrobials, others as antihistamines, and some as mood and memory enhancers. Though research is just now starting to look more deeply into these compounds, the medical community has seen proof that the cognitive decline associated with aging can be reversed with antioxidant assistance. The brain depends heavily on oxygen for its functioning, and as such, it is extremely vulnerable to attacks of free radicals. When free radical damage occurs and is compounded over time, the damage is seen in memory decline, fatigue, slower body movements, mood disturbances, and irritability.

The Choices of Foods

You can find flavonoids in a wide range of both common and uncommon fruits and veggies. Some have a higher content than others, with the rule of thumb being, the more deeply-hued or colored the plant or product, the more flavonoids it contains. If you hated brussels sprouts as a child, you’re in luck. They are low in flavonoid content. However, here are three foods you may already love that have some of the highest antioxidant properties.

  1. Apples. This sweet fruit contains quercetin. It has been shown to prevent heart attacks, control asthma, heal acid reflux, reduce cancer risks, and prevent gout attacks.
  2. Chocolate. For you to be able to eat chocolate and gain a health benefit, it needs to be dark chocolate. Cocoa powder is the strongest source, so you can make yourself a cup of hot chocolate (from scratch) if you want to boost your antioxidant-fueled immunity.
  3. Green Tea. Used in drinks and smoothies or taken hot, green tea has a cancer-fighting flavonoid called epigallocatechin gallate. Research shows that this compound is 100 times more potent as an antioxidant than vitamin C and 25 times more powerful than vitamin E.

Any small, positive changes you make to your diet have the power to improve your health, but filling your diet with flavonoids can improve your health dramatically.