Tasty Medicine By Naturopath Jeremy Hill

I've been told that the reason I'm always so busy atwork is because I tell everyone to eat chocolate - aprescription that is fairly easy to follow for most.And indeed I do recommend chocolate in moderation formost of my patients, but not just any old chocolate- it has to be the good quality, dark, high cocoa, lowsugar variety to make the grade and the more bitterthe better.

You may have heard that the antioxidants found in chocolateand cocoa are good for you. Well, these antioxidantsare known as flavonoids which are responsible for thebitter taste of dark chocolate.

Flavonoids are naturally occurring plant compoundswith the different types numbering in the thousands.At times, you may come across various terms being usedto describe different classes of flavonoids, such asbioflavonoids, polyphenols, anthocyanins, flavonols,flavones, flavanones and flavanols. Under these classes,there are thousands of different flavonoids, producedin plants as a protective measure in response to harshconditions such as drought, insects, fungal infectionand photo-oxidation.

All flavonoids are antioxidants of varying potencyand therapeutic activity and they have a diverse arrayof biological effects which can reduce the disease anddegeneration associated with ageing. such conditionsas inflammation, cancer, vascular diseases, memory loss,neurological damage, hypertension, kidney dysfunction,impotence, blindness and diabetes. A flavonoid-richdiet can even reduce your risk of sunburn!

Other flavonoid-rich foods in the spotlight recentlyare berries and red wine. It would seem that whoeverdistributed flavonoids amongst the foods had a prettydelicious meal in mind at the time.

Berries are one of the richest sources of antioxidantsthat we can eat. The flavonoid-rich purple and red pigmentsof berries are some of the most potent antioxidantsaround and have even shown promise in the ability toinhibit cancer cell growth - oral, prostate, colon andbreast.

Red wine has been touted as a tonic for the circulatorysystem and it would seem that there are a lot of peoplekeen to take on this advice. Now, researchers at QueenMary's School of Medicine think that they know why redwine might be so good. The flavonoid resveratrol hasbeen suspected as being the reason for red wine's therapeuticpotential, with recent research indicating high doseshave the potential for significant life extension. Butdue to low levels of resveratrol in wine and poor absorptionrates, it seems you would have to drink dozens of bottlesa day to glean the resveratrol dose needed to get thesame longevity benefits that have shown up in researchwith supplements. Luckily for wine lovers, researchershave discovered that the most potent component in redwine was indeed another flavonoid group called procyanidins.Procyanidins just so happen to be also found in abundancein my favourite food - dark chocolate, in my favouritedrink green tea and also in grape seeds and skins.

That green tea is a flavonoid-rich drink should comeas no surprise. Barely a week passes by without anotherarticle or TV item about the discovery of yet anotherbenefit of green tea. It seems it can do everythingexcept wash my car and program my DVD, but that's whyI had kids isn't it! Green tea will (and the evidenceis overwhelming) boost your immunity, lower your cholesterol,drop your blood pressure and reduce your blood sugar.It can also reduce your risk of cancer, slow down anythat you already have and may even induce some typesto regress. It can help minimise hair loss, kidney stones,blindness, arthritis and osteoporosis. It will evenreduce your chance of getting sunburnt. Green tea isflavonoid-rich.

Some of my other favourite foods that are laden withthe health boosting flavonoids include cherries, prunes,broccoli, apples, onions, tempeh, dark-coloured beans,leafy greens and parsley.

It is no coincidence that some of the most flavonoid-richherbs also happen to be some of the most widely usedtherapeutic herbal remedies in the world. These includeMilk Thistle, Ginkgo Biloba, Pine bark and Grape seedextracts. The general free radical-mopping, circulation-supporting and inflammation-reducing effects of flavonoidshave played a huge role in their popularity.

Recently, Iranian researchers expanded upon the listof many benefits from the flavonoid-rich herb Milk Thistle,a traditional liver tonic, when they found it also helpedlower blood sugar and triglycerides in diabetics.

When I did studies many years ago there was littlefocus on flavonoids, with bioflavonoids such as hesperidinand rutin being added to vitamin C supplements to potentiatethe absorption and circulatory benefits of the vitaminC. Discovered by Dr Szent-Gyorgyi, who won a Nobel prizefor discovering vitamin C in 1937, bioflavonoids weretypically citrus-sourced and often used to assist peoplesuffering from circulatory problems.

And while the bioflavonoid group have much to offerour health, they make up just a small number of thediversely distributed and therapeutic flavonoids. Flavonoidsare everywhere and they are offering up a multitudeof benefits to the discerning eater. Enjoy the synergisticeffects of flavonoids by eating a wide variety of thesesuper foods.

Good Health, Jeremy Hill.

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