Flavonoids, Gut Bacteria, Lower Blood Pressure

It’s becoming clear that one of the most important words to understand in your nutritional language is flavonoids.  These are plant-derived compounds commonly found in fruits, vegetables, tea, chocolate, and red wine.  Many studies have been done showing the health benefits of flavonoids, with the latest one published in Hypertension, a journal of the American Heart Association.  This study shows that flavonoid-rich foods are directly associated with the diversity of your gut bacteria, which is also associated with lowered blood pressure.

There are six main classes of flavonoids:  flavonols, flavanols, flavones, flavanones, anthocyanins, and isoflavones.  When you consume flavonoids, they interact with the bacteria found in your digestive tract, known as your gut microbiome.  Both the diversity and the composition of the microbiome respond to the flavonoid intake, and this then impacts your blood pressure.  This study involved 904 adults between 25 and 82 and the researchers evaluated their intake of flavonoid-rich foods, the composition of their gut microbiome, and their blood pressure levels.  They found that the participants who had the highest intake of flavonoids had greater diversity in their gut microbiome as well as lower systolic blood pressure levels.  They concluded that up to 15.2% of the association between flavonoid-rich foods and lower blood pressure was dependent on the diversity of the microbiome.  Studies have shown that the gut microbiome is critical for converting flavonoids into compounds that the body can use (resulting in health benefits like lower blood pressure), and in turn, consuming flavonoid-rich foods influences the population of good bacteria in your gut and how they are able to metabolize what you eat.

The blood pressure study focused on flavonoid-rich foods that included berries, red wine, apples, and pears.  They concluded that eating 1.6 servings of berries per day (one serving equals 1 cup) was associated with an average reduction in systolic blood pressure of 4.1mm Hg; drinking 2.8 glasses (125 ml per glass) of red wine per week was associated with an average lower systolic blood pressure of 3.7 mm Hg.

Many plant foods are rich in flavonoids, so you don’t need to limit yourself to those mentioned above.  Some of the best sources of dietary flavonoids include:

  • Berries
  • Red Cabbage
  • Kale and Leafy Greens
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Tea
  • Red Wine
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Citrus Fruits
  • Soybeans
  • Apples and Pears

By eating an all or mostly plant-based whole food diet, you automatically increase your intake of flavonoids and the health benefits they offer.

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