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You’ve probably heard of antioxidants before. Antioxidants act as cell protectors. The air we breathe contains Oxygen which is an essential element of life. However, Oxygen can also be damaging to our body. It creates by-products, called free radicals, which can be damaging during normal cellular metabolism. If left unchecked, free radicals may cause anything from heart damage, cataracts, and even cancer because they can weaken our body’s immune system. To counteract these free radicals before they can do damage to the cell, antioxidants bind with them.

Antioxidants come in several forms – Vitamin C, Vitamin E, carotenoids, and flavonoids. Next to Vitamin C, flavonoids are the most important antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables. But what exactly are flavonoids?

Flavonoids: An Introduction

In organic chemistry, flavonoids are described as polyphenolic compounds possessing 15 carbon atoms; two benzene rings joined by linear three carbon chain. So flavonoids are carbon-based elements. That means they’re organic. No wonder flavonoids constitute one of the most characteristic classes of compound sin higher plants. You can easily recognize many flavonoids as flower pigments in most angiosperm families or flowering plants. However, flavonoids do not only occur in flowers, but in all parts of the plant, namely, the fruit, stem, seeds, leaves, and even roots.

How are Flavonoids Good for You?

More and more researchers are beginning to probe into the once-hidden depths of foods and they’re discovering that vitamins and minerals aren’t all there is to it. Flavonoids, they discovered, or bioflavonoids as some like to refer to them, are perhaps one of the largest group of “other” nutrients Researchers have identified more than 4,000 of these organic substances in plants.

Like carotenes, flavonoids are plant pigments. They are the substances that give plants their various colors. And like carotenes, many flavonoids are antioxidants and they help protect plants from damaging free radicals. One distinct difference is that flavonoids are soluble in water while carotenes are oil soluble.

Flavonoids and the French Paradox

If you still haven’t figured out how flavonoids can do for your health, then take the “French Paradox” as a clue. The paradox of the French is that they eat almost four times more butter and three times more lard than Americans do. This means that compared to Americans, the French have higher cholesterol levels and blood pressures. Yet, the French are 2.5 times less likely to die of coronary heart disease than the average American. Now why is that?

Many people have suggested that the answer lies in the French liberal consumption of red wine, a substance rich in beneficial antioxidants such as flavonoids that protect against coronary heart disease and apparently lowers down cholesterol levels. In addition, flavonoids in French red wine can also prevent abnormal blood clots, thus reducing the risk of heart angina or atherosclerosis. In fact, at least eight medical studies have found that a glass or two of wine daily protects against heart disease.

Flavonoids for Long Life

Ever wonder why Asians have apparently longer lifespan than Westerns? Most attribute it to the Asian’s propensity to drink tea. The Chinese especially are fond of herbal teas, such as the common green tea and black tea. Apparently, these two teas contains about 25-30 per cent flavonoids, including quercetin and gallic esters. Like those in grapes and other fruits and vegetables, they also protect against heart disease.

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KEYWORDS “Flavonoids” -17 (density = 3.9%)

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