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Fabulous Flavonoids


A couple of years ago, I found a medical article and read for the first time that people with a diet high in flavonoids have a 20 percent decrease in cardio-vascular and stroke risk. Flavonoids are one type of polyphenol which generally are anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-viral, antioxidant, anti-diabetic, as well as cardio and neuro protective. Polyphenols bestow a wide variety of positive health effects with generally no downside risk.

Like most Americans, I had always been told to eat your green vegetables. Quite to the contrary, the highest concentration of polyphenols is found in fruits and vegetables that are usually anything but green. We are all aware of the health benefits of bright yellow turmeric. Curcumin is the polyphenol which imparts its anti-inflammatory properties. However, quercetin, apigenin, kaempferol, and genistein are just a few of the many polyphenols which also have anti-inflammatory properties. Except for asparagus and parsley, which are rich sources of these compounds, most other sources are brightly colored such as red raspberries, black berries, red radishes, mangoes, and red apples.

Despite the many flavorful foods high in polyphenols, black tea is the leading source of polyphenols in the American diet. Recognizing their health benefits, and seeking to expand their US consumption, The US Department of Agriculture has started to promote public awareness of polyphenols. Multiple food databases and lists can be found on the internet documenting the polyphenolic content of many foods. Some superfoods emerge such as beets, parsley, radishes with the greens, turmeric, and cocoa powder. An honorable mention should also be made for the much recently maligned soybean with its many anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory isoflavones which appear to be a significant factor in the low incidence of cancer among Asians.

Here are a few tips to increase the polyphenols in your diet. First increase your intake of probiotics. My favorite is Greek yogurt with its active cultures. Most polyphenols are poorly absorbed, however, probiotics in the gut increase the bioavailability of polyphenols 5 to 10-fold. Second, shift your vegetable buying preferences away from green toward reds, blacks, orange, purple, etc. Instead of green lettuce, buy red lettuce, red apples rather than green. Third, make a high flavonoid salad every day.  I make mine with red lettuce, red kale, red onion, red pepper, carrot, beets, asparagus, parsley, dried cranberries, pecans, black barley, red lentils, and soybean sprouts. Third, try adding two teaspoons of cocoa powder to your morning coffee with a splash of homemade soy milk. Lastly, add parsley fresh or dried to anything you can.

I’ve learned that polyphenols not only add color to the foods we eat, but also add taste. Making these few adjustments in food choice can greatly enhance our health.

Dr. Hartsuch is the owner/operator of the Rejuvagent men’s health clinic which offers safer and more cost effective alternatives to testosterone replacement therapy. Dr. Hartsuch may be reached by calling or texting the clinic at 563-293-7424.