The Fabulous Flavonoid Diet

There’s an obesity crisis in the U.S.A. and it’s spreading around the world. According to the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (link to the 517 page report), the facts about American's diet-related health problems are quite disturbing:

  • About half of all American adults - 117 million individuals - have one or more preventable chronic diseases that relate to poor quality dietary pattern and physical inactivity, including cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and diet-related cancers.
  • More than two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of children and youth are overweight or obese.
  • On average, the U.S. diet is low in vegetables, fruit, and whole grains and too high in calories, saturated fat, sodium, refined grains, and added sugars.

The report's recommendation is to encourage and guide the U.S. population to consume diets that are rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in low- and non-fat dairy products and alcohol; lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains.

Ah ha! Vegetables and fruits you say? Let us introduce you to Flavonoids.

Flavonoids are polyphenol compounds found in plants, many with proven antioxidant effects. We like to think of them as phytochemical nutrients. If we eat more vegetables and fruits (and drink teas) we'll be consuming more flavonoids in addition to our other basic vitamins, minerals, and fiber. For more information on flavonoids you can check out Wikepidia - Flavonoid. There's also an excellent description worth reading on The World's Healthiest Foods webpage on Flavonoids.

So there’s a cool database put out by U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Health called the USDA's Expanded Flavonoid Database for the Assessment of Dietary Intakes (Release 1.1 - December 2015). You can find it at the very bottom of this link: http://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=24953.

The database contains data about the flavonoid and isoflavone content of foods and beverages. The data is further broken down into 29 different nutrient types.

Flavonoid Class Nutrient Types
Anthocyanidins Cyanidin, Delphinidin, Malvidin, Pelargonidin, Peonidin, Petunidin
Flavan-3-ols (+)-Catechin, (+)-Gallocatechin, (-)-Epicatechin, (-)-Epigallocatechin, (-)-Epicatechin 3-gallate, (-)-Epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG), Theaflavin, Theaflavin 3-gallate, Theaflavin 3'-gallate, Theaflavin 3,3' digallate, Thearubigins
Flavanones Eriodictyol, Hesperetin, Naringenin
Flavones Luteolin, Apigenin
Flavonols Quercetin, Kaempferol, Myricetin, Isorhamnetin
Isoflavone Class Nutrient Types
Isoflavones Daidzein, Genistein, Glycitein

Analyzing Foods with Flavonoids

Let's take a look at the groups of foods and beverages containing beneficial flavonoids to get familiar with them.

There are 23 different food groups in the NIH's Extended Flavonoid database. Of these food groups, only 19 actually contain items with flavonoids and/or isoflavones.

You can forget about the major meat groups if you're looking for foods with flavonoids. None there, move on.

Foods Groups without Flavonoids

  • Beef Products
  • Lamb, Veal, and Game
  • Pork Products
  • Poultry Products

Harkening back to the USDA's recommendation to eat "vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood, legumes, and nuts" we have an interesting correlation here to the USDA's Expanded Flavonoid Database information. The very best food groups ranked by those containing flavonoids are:

Top 5 Food Groups with Flavonoids

  • Fruits and Fruit Juices
  • Beverages
  • Vegetables and Vegetable Products
  • Legumes and Legume Products
  • Spices and Herbs
Food Groups with Flavonoids Food Groups with Isoflavones
Baby Foods Baby Foods
Baked Products Baked Products
Beverages
Breakfast Cereals Breakfast Cereals
Cereal Grains and Pasta Cereal Grains and Pasta
Dairy and Egg Products Dairy and Egg Products
Fast Foods
Fats and Oils
Finfish and Shellfish Products
Fruits and Fruit Juices Fruits and Fruit Juices
Legumes and Legume Products Legumes and Legume Products
Meals, Entrees, and Side Dishes
Nut and Seed Products Nut and Seed Products
Sausages and Luncheon Meats
Snacks Snacks
Soups, Sauces, and Gravies Soups, Sauces, and Gravies
Spices and Herbs
Sweets
Vegetables and Vegetable Products
* Top groups with the highest flavonoid content are highlighted

Digging Deeper to find the Gems

Let the fun begin! What the heck should we buy (or grow) to eat in order to get more flavonoids in our diets? To see the answers, start by selecting both a Flavonoid Class and a Food Group below to see the Top 50 foods with the most flavonoid milligrams (mg's). If you select All Flavonoids and All Food Groups we'll show you the Top 100 best foods.

DATA NOTE: We modified the NIH's Expanded Flavonoid Database from 100 gram sizes to real serving sizes as used in the USDA's National Nutrient Database and sanitized out certain foods that were either redundant, unnecessary, or did not contain any flavonoids.

Select a Flavonoid Class

Also Select a Food Group


Observations and Silly Stuff to Think About

Green Tea Rules

Green tea wins the highest flavonoid containing food award! This highly touted beverage has many praises sung for its antioxidant and health powers. Go ahead and Google green tea. With real data values from the database we have some fuel to back the claims, and baby, it's the flavonoids. Green tea is famous for the Flavan-3-ol called (-)-Epigallocatechin 3-gallate (better known as EGCG). Maybe the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee can could revise their recommendation to encourage Americans "to drink more plant-based teas instead of sugar-laden soda." If you're into the scientific research head over to the US Pub Med website to search medical articles on green tea.

Select All Flavonoids and All Food Groups above.

Raw Kale

If you like healthy foods and raw veggies, then you probably know all about Kale greens. We make baked chips with fresh Kale all the time. You may notice that a "Kale, raw" food item is missing from the Flavanoid database! To make sure we were not losing our minds, a quick cross-check into the USDA's National Nutrient Database showed that indeed "Kale, raw" NDB_No 11233 was analyzed for nutrients. As for flavnoid content though, alas we must live with "Kale, frozen, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt" or "Kale, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt".

Select Flavonols and Vegetables above.

Nuts

Say you are at a party with appetizers and nuts all over the place. The host was sure people love nuts, so he placed several varieties out. There are pistachios, pecans, cashews, almonds, and even fancy roasted chestnuts waiting to be eaten. So you're ready to grab a nice big handful, but which ones shall you choose? A quick check in the Flavonoid data says to "GO FOR THE PECANS!"

Select All Flavonoids and Nut and Seed Products above.

Chocolate

Maybe you heard on the Dr. Oz show that chocolate (in moderation) is actually good for you. That's a blessing for sure. But now you wonder how come? Another quick check in the Flavonoid data informs you why. Chocolate has flavonoids, yahoo!

Select Flavan-3-ols and Sweets above.

Wine

Of course you've heard about wine, particularly red wine, and how it can be good for you with the special polyphenols in the red grape skins. Let's check the flavonoid data shall we? Holy cow! A 3.5 oz. glass of "Alcoholic beverage, wine, dessert, sweet" actually has 5 times more Anthocyanidins as "Alcoholic beverage, wine, table, red". Makes one wonder if having desert wine for desert after dinner is in order.

Select Anthocyanidins and Beverages above.

Get Current with Currants

Who in the world would guess that "Currants, zante, dried" would be the top food in the Fruit food group with respect to flanonoid content. A big LOL for that! Naturally a Google search is required. Turns out zante currants are not really currants at all. They're raisins! They come from the Black Corinth variety of grape and have a wild story about how they got their name by accident. The cool thing about zante currants though is they contain Anthocyanidins, Flavonols, and Flavan-3-ols.

Upon researching further we found out that real currents, particularly black currants, may even be the bigger holy grail in the flavonoid world of fruits. Unfortunately just like raw kale, black currants are not in the Flavonoid database probably due to black currant farming being banned back in the early 1900's nationwide. The law was changed to state jurisdiction in 1966 and now a few states allow the growing of certain black currant varieties. Many Americans probably haven't even heard of them.

Select Anthocyanidins and Fruits and Fruit Juices above.

Make a Flavonoid Diet Shopping List

LOL, gotta love it. When in doubt at the market, just choose colorful foods with flavonoids!