Flavonoids in colourful fruits and vegetables can prevent several chronic illnesses

When Mother Nature painted the plant kingdom with her inimitable dazzling colours of yellows, reds and blues, was she merely creating beauty on earth or did she have a hidden agenda? We know now, that certain pigments responsible for the brilliantly beautiful colours of plants may hold the secret to good health.

A very large family of chemical compounds (over 4,000) collectively known as flavonoids give flowers, fruits and vegetables their attractive colours - yellow, orange, red, blue, purple. For example, a class of flavonoids known as anthocyanidins lend blood red, purple and blue colours to berries, grapes, eggplant etc and red wine its burgundy hue.

But that’s not just it. Flavonoids also bestow upon these colourful vegetables and fruits the powers to prevent several chronic illnesses in humans who feed lavishly on them.

Since the beginning of time, man has used every bit of the plant – leaves, bark, flowers, fruits, seeds and roots in treating ailments far before the discovery and isolation of the actual chemical compounds responsible for its curative powers.

Flavonoids were discovered in the 1930s by a Hungarian scientist and he called it Vitamin P. Since then researches from all over the world have found that regular eating of plant foods clearly provide protection against diseases like type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, heart attacks, high blood pressure, allergies, inflammation, and possibly even cancers.

All vegetables, fruits, legumes, spices and herbs contain flavonoids, yet some have more number of flavonoids in them making them more effective in combating ill health.

Generally, the deeper the colour the richer it is in flavonoids. So reach for the most colourful ones next time you do your grocery shopping. The richest are berries (particularly dark ones like blueberries, blackberries and bilberries) dark red cherries, tea (green, white, oolong and black), unpeeled apples, pears, dark plums, oranges (especially the white edible covering of orange segments), grapefruit, lemon, cocoa extract (dark chocolate with over 70 per cent cocoa), herbs especially parsley, thyme, sage, basil, celery, green chillies, onions, eggplant, broccoli, red cabbage, red wine, and black beans, small red beans, kidney beans and pinto are richest among legumes.. Tomatoes because of its wide consumption, are an important source of flavonoids.

(The writer is a nutritionist.)

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