What are flavonoids?
Flavonoids are compounds found in many foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, grain fiber such as in bran, tea, wine, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices. Many flavonoids are strong antioxidants, which are believed to prevent atherosclerosis by reducing damage to the cells that line the blood vessels. Some flavonoids have other beneficial properties, including anti-inflammatory effects and clot prevention.
The report used data from the Iowa Women’s Health Study, in which more than 34,000 postmenopausal women between 55 and 69 years old answered questionnaires about diet and other factors related to cardiac risk and stroke risk.
The women’s diets were analyzed for total flavonoid content as well as for seven specific types of flavonoids:
- Anthocyanidins—found in blueberries, raspberries, and red wine
- Flavanones—found in oranges, grapefruit, and lemons
- Flavones—found in parsley and celery
The women whose diets contained high amounts of anthocyanidins were less likely to die from cardiovascular diseases, coronary heart disease, and from any other cause than those who got little or didn’t get any. Flavanone intake was linked to lower risk of death due to coronary heart disease, and flavone intake to lower risk of death for any reason.
Get more in your meals
Specific foods reduced risk of death from heart disease, stroke, and all causes. Try some of the following suggestions to get more of these foods in your diet:
- Eating bran, apples, pears, strawberries, red wine, and chocolate protected the women against death from cardiovascular disease.
- Eating apples, pears, red wine, and grapefruit protected them against death from coronary heart disease.
- Adding bran to food prevented death from stroke.
- Chocolate, though the effect was small, was found to prevent cardiovascular disease-related deaths.
The study’s authors speculated that, as information about food make-up becomes more precise, we will learn more about the effects of specific food compounds on health and disease. In the meantime, tasty ways to work in more flavonoids abound. Enjoy!
(Am J Public Health 2006;96:1815–20)
Pear and Brie Quesadillas
- 4 flour tortillas, 10-inches (25cm) in diameter
- 2 medium Bartlett pears, at the peak of ripeness
- 4 oz Brie cheese*
- 1/4 cup or more fresh salsa, red or green salsa can be used
- Place the 4 tortillas on a flat working surface.
- Slice and core the pears into thin pieces (about 1/4-inch (0.5cm) thick).
- Slice Brie into 12 or more very thin slices.
- To assemble quesadillas, place pear slices and cheese on each tortilla, leaving one side of the tortilla empty for folding over. Fold the tortilla to form a semi-circle, with the pear and cheese on the inside.
- Heat a nonstick skillet. Place a folded tortilla in the pan and heat just until the cheese starts to melt. Gently turn the quesadilla over and continue heating until the tortilla is lightly browned.
- Remove to a platter and repeat with each of the 4 tortillas.
- Slice each quesadilla in half and drizzle about 1 Tbsp (15g) of salsa over the top. Serve with napkins or a plate and fork, as it can get quite messy!
* Allergy notes: The egg protein lysozyme is an unlabeled additive in some cheeses. People allergic to eggs should eliminate any cheese in this recipe.
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The information presented here is for informational purposes only and was created by a team of US–registered dietitians and food experts. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements, making dietary changes, or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2011.