Mayuri Gharpure is a typical executive in a multinational organisation in Delhi. Her day begins at six in the morning and then life moves on a fast lane through the day, till she finds some time to relax. In recent times, Mayuri has been feeling a bit stressed. “I don’t feel that I have the same energy which I had few years back,” she says. “And my husband tells me that I need to slow down a bit, my friend says that I should go for a check-up, preferably that of the heart.” Indeed, the advice is worth considering since the risk of heart attack and cardiac ailments among women are on the rise. But there is good news. Researchers have found that strawberries and blueberries eaten thrice a week are likely to help women lower their heart attack risk by a third. The berries have rich levels of compounds called dietary flavonoids, found in foods such as dark chocolate, grapes, red wine, blackberries and eggplant. Dietary flavonoids may prevent heart disease by helping to dilate blood vessels and by countering the build-up of plaque which can cause blockages in the coronary arteries and, ultimately, heart attacks, said researchers, the journal Circulation reports. The researchers found that women who ate the most blueberries and strawberries had a 32 per cent reduction in their risk of heart attack compared to those who ate them once a month or less, regardless of an otherwise nutritious diet.
So what are the dietary flavonoids? Flavonoids are a large family of compounds synthesised by plants that have a common chemical structure. Flavonoids connected to one or more sugar molecules are known as flavonoid glycosides, while those that are not connected to a sugar molecule are called aglycones. With the exception of flavanols (catechins and proanthocyanidins), flavonoids occur in plants and most foods as glycosides. Even after cooking, most flavonoid glycosides reach the small intestine intact. Only flavonoid aglycones and flavonoid glucosides (bound to glucose) are absorbed in the small intestine, where they are rapidly metabolised to form methylated, glucuronidated, or sulfated metabolites, say experts.
They are available in red, blue and purple berries; in red and purple grapes, red wine, teas (particularly green and white), in chocolate, apples, oranges, grapefruits, lemons, yellow onions, scallions, kale, parsley, thyme, celery, hot peppers, soybeans, soy foods and legumes.
Among the many effects the flavonoids can offer are: inhibiting tumour invasion and angiogenesis; decreasing inflammation; decreasing platelet aggregation and preventing blood clot.
So, here’s what Mayuri can do: live her life to the fullest, yet reduce the risk of a heart attack by ensuring a diet which is rich in flavonoids. The easy way is to eat more fruits because they are rich in these wonderful compounds.