What Are Flavanols And Why Do I Need Them?

Close up of 2 squares of very dark chocolate containing flavanols

Keeping up to date with nutrition and educating ourselves about which foods are good for us and the reasons why can be incredibly confusing. With various different superfoods continually being thrown at us is it any wonder that with this information overload we start to doubt what is and isn’t true. Take the newspapers for example, one week we’re told we should be cutting down on our alcohol levels, the next week we’re told that actually red wine is really good for us because it contains antioxidants and flavanols. Confused dot com or what!?!

And that right there is one of the biggest problems, none of us really know what some of these words mean. In this article we’re going to take a look at what flavanols actually are, where you can find them and most importantly what’s so good about them in terms of our health.

What Are Flavanols?

Flavanols are a type of flavanoid, which is a naturally occurring compound found in plants. I like to think of flavanoids as being the main head office and flavanols as the smaller sub-branches. In plants flavanols act as a form of protection, for example UV filtration, and so the theory goes that if we include them in our diet then they can also benefit us with these protective qualities too (more on that later).

What Foods Contain Flavanols?

Foods rich in flavanols include tea (in particular green tea), apples, grapes, red wine, blueberries, and cocoa. In fact cocoa contains a whopping 261mg of flavanols per 100g versus just 18mg from red wine. And if you’re thinking “Result! That means I can eat more chocolate” then think again, as even dark chocolate contains less than half the amount of flavanols to cocoa simply because they get destroyed during fermentation and roasting.

Alternatively, if you don’t fancy necking a spoonful of cocoa everyday (because bleurgh why would you!?!) then you might want to consider taking a cocoa extract supplement such as these from CocoaVia, which gives you 375mg of cocoa flavanols with each daily three capsule dosage. This gives you a right old boost of cocoa flavanols without the hassle of say making up a smoothie of a morning.

How Will Flavanols Benefit My Health?

OK so we’ve been given the go ahead to include more cocoa in our diet, I mean what’s not to like about that right, but what is it actually going to do for us?

Scientific research carried out by some of the world’s top research institutions, including the National Institutes of Health, Columbia University and Harvard University, has shown that daily consumption of the right quantity of cocoa flavanol can benefit circulation, brain, heart, and skin health. And on top of that there is now a growing body of evidence that suggests cocoa flavanols may also improve both exercise performance and recovery by supporting blood vessel health and a healthy circulation

And if that wasn’t enough, it is also thought that the consumption of cocoa flavanols may also help with blood sugar control and reduce cravings for the sweet stuff. Think about how when you eat milk chocolate your body craves more and more of it until you’ve eaten so much you make yourself feel sick. Now compare it to how you feel when you eat dark chocolate, usually a couple of squares is all you need to feel satisfied and that’s basically the principle that’s at work here.

So OK perhaps my title is a little questionable, none of us need flavanols as such, but heck if it means reaping all the many benefits I’ve listed above as well as getting to consume more of the yummy foods that contain them, then hey I am totally in need!

*collaborative post

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