What is a flavanoid?
The Linus Pauling Institute defines a flavanoid as “… naturally occurring compounds that are widely distributed in the plant kingdom, appearing in fruits, vegetables, and plant-derived beverages, such as tea and wine. Flavonoids play an important role in plants, mainly protecting them against external pathogens, ultra-violet light, or heat. The main classes of flavonoids include anthocyanidins, flavones, flavanones, flavonols and flavanols (also known as catechins). Flavonoids are responsible for the red, purple, and blue color of fruits and flowers, and play a role in pollination by attracting insects. They are considered to be the main active component of some medicinal plants due to their well-documented anti-inflammatory properties and their activity as modulators of the immune system, among many other physiological effects. Flavonoids have been claimed to be powerful antioxidants in a number of different biological systems, protecting against damage by free radicals. Most of the flavonoids belong to a group of chemicals called polyphenols, and the antioxidant properties of flavonoids are probably related to their polyphenolic chemical structure.”
Research on flavanols have shown to enhance the brain by helping to maintain cognitive brain functionality that we experience as we age. Testing of cacao has shown that “cocoa powder and cocoa-derived products, especially dark chocolate, are good sources of flavonoids, mainly epicatechin and its oligomers, called procyanidins. Dark chocolate has the highest total catechin and procyanidin content.” When reaching for that next bar of chocolate make sure that it is raw organic because just like with other fruits and vegetables, when cacao is heated it loses a great deal of the beneficial plant based antioxidants a.k.a. flavanoids.
Epicatechin is just one flavanol found in cacao and it is an essential nutrient. In the history of chocolate and its origins research has shown that societies like the Kuna Indians and the Aztecs who consumed high doses of cacao had very little illness in their society. Furthermore, the study of this flavanol has shown great benefits in aiding heart disease and other chronic illnesses.