As someone interested in nutrition and health, you’ve likely heard of many of the beneficial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants out there. There’s one family of compounds, though, that doesn’t get a ton of airtime, but has some serious benefits to offer. Flavonoids (also known as bioflavonoids) are found naturally in many plants and have the potential to prevent and treat a variety of health conditions. “Flavonoids are plant chemicals that give produce their color and provide antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties,” says Megen Erwine, RDN, LDN, a registered dietitian for LetsGetChecked. There are a variety of flavonoids out there, but one of the most powerful is called hesperidin—and it turns out that now is the perfect time to increase the amount of this wonder compound in your diet.
What is hesperidin, and why is it good for you?
Hesperidin is a flavonoid that is found in high concentrations in certain fruits (more on that later). Flavonoids are largely responsible for the colors of fruits and vegetables, but they aren’t just for those vivid aesthetics. “Hesperidin has been shown in clinical studies to have antioxidant properties, which help protect your cells from oxidative damage that can lead to disease,” says Erwine. “Hesperidin may therefore play a role in heart, bone, brain, liver, and respiratory health and supports a healthy immune system.”
One study also showed that hesperidin has the potential to reduce atherosclerosis, which is the hardening of arteries due to plaque buildup—a potential precursor to heart attacks and strokes. Hesperidin has also been shown to be anti-inflammatory, which is pretty much the holy grail for improving everything from skin health to autoimmune disorders and—you guessed it—cardiovascular disease.
The best food sources of hesperidin
If you’re looking for natural food sources of hesperidin, turn to citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, and everyone’s favorite, Sumo Citrus. Best part? All of these happen to be in peak season during the winter months. “The majority of hesperidin is found in the most colorful parts of the fruit, such as the peel,” says Erwine. And good news: Freshly-squeezed orange juice is an excellent source as well. “100-percent citrus fruit juice that is commercially squeezed under high pressure is one of the best sources of hesperidin. The high-pressure juicing is able to excrete hesperidin from the peels.”
Studies show that hesperidin helps increase the bioavailability of vitamin C in citrus, helping to further boost your immune system and protect against disease. This perfect pairing is one example of why natural food sources are often the best way to consume vitamins and minerals.
Since the citrus peels are most concentrated with hesperidin, grab your zester and make use of that colorful and flavorful peel to boost your intake. Erwine recommends adding the zest of lemons, limes, and oranges to water or tea, or sprinkling into stir fries, smoothies, grain bowls, or over yogurt. You’d be surprised at how many different meals can benefit from the bright pop of hesperidin-rich zest, so feel free to experiment!
Another healthy option is to try baking your hesperidin-rich orange peels, which holistic health practitioner, herbalist, and Supernatural founder Rachelle Robinett says can also help boost digestion by getting your digestive enzymes flowing before you eat a meal. “It’s super simple [to make],” she told us. “Just chop up a fresh orange and peel off the peel. Pop it in your oven on the lowest temperature for however long it takes to turn it into chips.” Eat your baked orange peels straight as a snack, similar to dried fruit, or serve over vanilla yogurt (or ice cream). As an added benefit, you’ll also be cutting down on food waste. Talk about a win-win, right?
Watch Robinette make her delicious hesperidin-rich orange peels in this video:
While there is no recommended daily intake for flavonoids, Erwine recommends aiming for at least five servings of colorful fruits and vegetables per day to reap the benefits of hesperidin and other beneficial flavonoids.
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