Women's Health Only provides information and tips on women's fitness, health, sex, career, relationships, nutrition, weight loss and strength training.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Healing Power Of Flavonoids

Mom always said, “Eat your vegetables.” She was right, of course. Vegetables and fruits contain not only vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but also beneficial flavonoids that offer you powerful health benefits. These “other” nutrients play a key role in giving fruits and veggies – as well as nuts, legumes, grains, and herbs – their distinct colors and flavors. They also give you an edge against diseases that affect women in every nation.

Protection Against Heart Disease
The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that heart disease is the number one killer of women globally. To help protect yourself against cardiovascular disease, the AHA recommends that you eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. It turns out that certain plant foods are doubly good for your heart because of the flavonoids they contain.

Researchers have discovered that a flavonoid called epicatechin helps blood vessels relax, which improves blood flow through your circulatory system and keeps your heart healthier. The good news is that epicatechin is found in cocoa, a powder made from the roasted cacao bean – the key ingredient in chocolate! It’s also found in apples, green tea, and many other plant-based foods.

Cancer Fighting Properties
Epicatechin belongs to a family of flavonoids called catechins, observed to have both cardiovascular-boosting and anti-cancer properties. You’ll find a rich supply of catechins in grapes, apricots, plums, and berries. Fix yourself a fruit salad, and you’ll be giving your body good, natural medicine.

Flavonoids found in citrus fruits, including oranges and tangerines, have been seen in laboratories to inhibit melanoma and lung cancer. One flavonoid in particular, quercetin, shows promise against several types of cancer, including breast cancer. A glass of freshly squeezed orange juice contains high levels of quercetin. Other food sources include blueberries, cranberries, olive oil, and onions.

Additional Health Benefits
Scientists continue to study flavonoids to pinpoint exactly how they benefit your health. What they’ve discovered so far is just the tip of the iceberg, but already these discoveries are very exciting. They show that flavonoids can:

* Lower your risk of stroke
* Relieve allergy symptoms
* Alleviate symptoms of arthritis
* Reduce hot flashes during menopause
* Minimize varicose veins
* Alleviate eczema and other skin conditions
* Offer antibacterial benefits
* Help lower cholesterol levels
* Work as antioxidants to protect cells

Mix And Match
Just like with vitamins and minerals, different foods provide you with different types and concentrations of flavonoids. Strawberries, pears, and cherries are high in anthocyanidins, believed to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease. Grapefruit juice is a good source of hesperetin, known for its anti-inflammatory properties. So a good rule of thumb is to mix and match plant-based foods to get an abundant supply and variety of flavonoids.

Simply by adding colorful, tasty produce to your daily diet, you protect your body against disease. It doesn’t get much easier than that. Sprinkle a generous portion of blueberries over your morning cereal. Add strawberries to your salads. Enjoy olive oil and onions in your cuisine. You can even nibble a piece of chocolate now and again knowing that, thanks to its flavonoids, you’re doing your body good.

The risks
The main risk factors among women are:

* Smoking – chemicals in tobacco smoke cause the coronary arteries (which bring blood to the heart muscle) to constrict. This can lead to chest pain or angina; chronic arterial damage may also precipitate a heart attack. As soon as you give up smoking, your risk of heart attack falls, returning to near normal within three to five years.
* The contraceptive pill – if you smoke and take the Pill, your risk of heart disease is 30 times higher than normal.
* The menopause – the female hormone oestrogen plays an important role in keeping the heart and blood vessels healthy. After the menopause, oestrogen levels fall and the rate of heart disease rises rapidly.
* Obesity and lack of exercise.
* Diabetes – the risk is seven to ten times greater.
* High blood fat/cholesterol levels – especially after the age of 50.

All content within WomensHealthOnly.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. WomensHealthOnly.com is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of WomensHealthOnly.com website.



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