There is a plethora of newly discovered phytochemicals, or naturally occurring plant chemicals, in fruits and vegetables. Studies are being conducted right now that identify specific phytochemicals and the diseases that they alter. Sometimes they are found to help prevent a disease and other times they can be used as a treatment.
Quite often they are found to be more effective than pharmaceutical agents in reducing the symptoms of a health condition or disease. Some of the nutrients recently identified are flavonoids, which are found in blueberries,blackberries, and citrus fruits. These strengthen cell membranes, help prevent bruising, and have powerful disease-fighting benefits.
Flavonoids are not mysterious substances seen only with a microscope. They are polyphenolic chemicals that give foods color, texture, and taste. You can actually see and taste them. This is true for many of the nutrients in fruits and vegetables. Four thousand flavonoids have been discovered so far and more are being researched as we speak.
Flavones such as hesperetin, naringenin, and eriodictyol are found in citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruits. They play a major role in the prevention of heart disease.
Flavones such as luteolin and apigenin are antioxidants that also protect the heart and vascular system, promote healthy blood sugar levels, and reduce inflammation.
Apigenin is a flavone found in peppermint and chamomile that has antioxidant, anti-tumor, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Catechins such as proanthocyanidins are a type of anti- oxidant found in tea, chocolate, apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries, as well as green and black teas. Catechins help protect us because they are free-radical scavengers that also promote vascular relaxation and help prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Another subclass of flavonoids is anthocyanins, which impart the violet, blue, and purple colors that we see in fruits, berries, and flowers. The violet anthocyanins give color to black cur- rants, purple grapes, blueberries, blackberries, and plums. Red anthocyanins are present in red berries such as lingonberries, cranberries, red currants, and cherries.
Eating this group of flavonoid-rich foods can help reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) by reducing the production of LDL (bad) cholesterol.