Americans are good at a lot of things, but eating enough flavonoid-rich fruits and vegetables is not one of them. In fact, the USDA estimated that the average adult in the United States only gets 250-275 milligrams of flavonoids a day, mostly from black or green tea.
Although there is no recommended daily intake (RDI) for flavonoids, these numbers are terrible considering that most of us should be getting near 1,000 mg or more. Here is why you need to up your intake of flavonoids and some easy tips for making it as foolproof as possible.
Why You Need More Flavonoids
Do you bruise easily? Get sick and stay sick often? Have sun-damaged skin that won’t go away? What about cold sores? You might be flavonoid deficient. Although it seems a bit hard to believe considering most Americans have plenty of access to fresh fruits and vegetables, there are many possible explanations why you aren’t getting enough.
First, most of us are eating too many processed foods instead of minimally processed plant-based foods simply because it’s easier and cheaper. Hitting up a fast-food restaurant when you're hungry takes less time than making a meal at home. Even if you make it to the grocery store and purchase enough flavonoid-rich foods, you could be overcooking or storing them wrong.
Prolonged and improper storage may cause your foods to lose some of their flavonoid content, meaning that you won’t cash in on the good stuff when you eat them. Onions are a perfect example. When they are stored at room temperature, onions will lose about one-quarter to one-third of their flavonoids over six months. The worst part is that most of this loss occurs within the first two weeks of storing them improperly.
Because they are water-soluble nutrients, it’s easy to lose flavonoids in your water through the cooking process. Anytime you boil your fruits and vegetables, you run the risk of losing up to 80 percent of your flavonoid content. You might notice that your food changes colors or becomes dull looking after it is cooked. This is a classic sign that you’ve accidentally overcooked your foods.
Flavonoids are especially sensitive to heat. For this reason, it’s best not to fry flavonoid-rich foods for more than five to eight minutes. Keep in mind that many fruits and vegetables travel from different parts of the world to get to your grocery store. By the time you bring them home and cook them, you’ve lost a majority of the nutrients because they were picked a long time ago and then heated to high temperatures.
Tips For Getting More Flavonoids In Your Diet
The best way to get more flavonoids in your diet is to eat more of them. Research shows that there is no real danger associated with eating too many fruits and vegetables. Aim for ten servings of minimally processed fruits and vegetables a day. You’ll also want to keep the skin intact on your produce as this is where many of the flavonoids are found. Instead of peeling them, wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly or buy organic whenever possible to minimize pesticide exposure. Organic foods are also higher in flavonoids and other beneficial plant compounds (1). Here are some other easy ways to increase your flavonoid intake without too much effort:
1. Start with fruit.
Berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries, contain a unique type of flavonoid called anthocyanins that have been shown to play an important role in the prevention of diabetes, and cardiovascular and neurological diseases (2). They also tend to be well-liked by most people, including children, and are easy to eat raw.
Add a cup of your favorite berries to a breakfast smoothie made with a cup of unsweetened almond milk, two cups of fresh spinach, two tablespoons of nut butter, and a pinch of sea salt. You can also snack on fresh berries with a handful of nuts as an afternoon snack with a mug of hot tea or add berries to your salad at lunch. Other fruits that are high in flavonoids are apples, peaches, pears, bananas, oranges, plums, cranberries, cherries, grapefruit, watermelon, and cantaloupe.
2. Move on to vegetables.
Stock up on flavonoid-rich vegetables so that you’ll be more likely to use them in recipes at home. Some good options are bell peppers, celery, lettuce, tomatoes, turnip greens, cabbage, and sweet potatoes. Garbanzo beans and quinoa aren’t vegetables, but they are high in flavonoids and they go great when added to vegetable-based dishes. Dip celery and bell peppers in hummus for a great snack option. Use quinoa in place of brown rice at dinner or throw a sweet potato in the oven to accompany a large salad at lunch. Stocking up at home means you’ll be less likely to make other food plans if you know you spent good money on healthy food at home.
3. Shop local.
Getting your produce at the local farmer’s market is the best way to make sure your food is fresh. Foods that sit on the shelf at the grocery store for weeks have lost most of their flavonoids by the time they reach your plate. Local foods are often picked right before they are sold to you, making them higher in nutrients than foods that have been flown half-way around the world to you. You’ll also be supporting the economy by shopping at local farms in your area.
4. Take a supplement.
For most people, it’s impossible to fit a full ten servings of fruits and vegetables in your diet a day. Even if you have access to ten servings, there’s no guarantee your body will absorb all the flavonoids your food has to offer. Chronic daily stress causes digestive inflammation that makes it harder for you to absorb nutrients. For that reason, it’s helpful to supplement with flavonoids to enhance your intake easily. Be sure to find a supplement that has proven results and take it with dietary fat to assist with the absorption process.