Flavonoids are antioxidants in plant foods that help prevent cell damage from free radicals throughout your body.  They help prevent inflammation that can lead to chronic illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.  A new study published in Neurology shows that eating flavonoid-rich foods also lowers your risk of cognitive decline.

The study was conducted by researchers at Harvard University and involved tracking about 75,000 men and women for more than 20 years, starting when they were around 50 years old.  They concluded that flavonoids are important for preventing your thinking skills from declining.  People who ate about 600 milligrams of flavonoids per day had a 20% lower risk of cognitive decline than people who only ate 150 mg daily.  Strawberries, for example, have about 180 mg of flavonoids per serving, blueberries have 164 mg, and apples around 113 mg.

There are six major types of flavonoids, and they are listed below along with some of the foods that are good sources for them:

Flavanols – onions, kale, grapes and red wine, tea, peaches, berries, tomatoes, lettuce, scallions, broccoli

Flavonols – tea, apples, purple and red grapes

Flavones – parsley, red peppers, celery, yellow and orange fruits or vegetables

Flavanones – lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit

Isoflavones – soy and soy products

Anthocyanins – red wine, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, cherries

The researchers found that while a diet rich in flavonoids provided an overall reduction in the risk of cognitive decline, flavones and anthocyanins were especially good.  Flavones lowered cognitive decline by 38% and anthocyanins by 24%.  They also recommend that it’s never too late to start enriching your diet with flavonoids and benefits are gained once you begin incorporating them into your diet.  They flavonoids should be part of a healthy diet like the Mediterranean diet, along with a lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and not smoking.

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