Research in the field of antioxidants has grown exponentially. Recent research suggests that some natural sources provide antioxidants in the form of flavonoids. A research team has set out to determine if three edible plants provide a good source of flavonoids.

Free radicals are reactive molecules that can cause damage to cells. Antioxidants protect us against free radicals and the oxidative stress that they cause. Many diseases and disorders are known to be induced directly as a result of oxidative stress. Since antioxidants help protect against oxidative stress, researchers have shifted their attention towards plant-based foods, which contain compounds that have antioxidative properties. Flavonoids are natural chemicals that are found in plants and can act as antioxidants. Research has shown that the health benefits associated with fruits and vegetables may be linked to the presence of flavonoids. Research is currently underway to identify the most potent sources of flavonoids in nature that can be used to promote health.

There is no known research that looks at flavonoid characterization and content in the following edible plants: Carissa bispinosa, Ficus sycomorus, and Grewia bicolar. The plants all produce different edible coloured fruits, yellow, red, and purple, respectively.  A Zimbabwean research team led by Luke Gwatidzo and his colleagues wanted to isolate flavonoids from these fruits and try to determine their respective antioxidant properties. Their findings were recently published in Nutrire.

Significant Antioxidant Activity in Each Plant

They used a laboratory technique known as chromatography to separate plant mixtures and determine the number of flavonoids in each. This technique demonstrated that there were two different types of flavonoids in each one of the three plants. Looking further into the antioxidative effects of each one of the flavonoids, they found that both flavonoids from all the plants showed significant antioxidant activity.

Implications for Incorporating Flavonoids into Diet

Carissa bispinosa, Ficus sycomorus, and Grewia bicolar are all edible plants that contain flavinoids that have impactful antioxidant activity. This study further validates the fact that fruits and vegetables that contain flavonoids can be and should be used as a source of natural antioxidants. Further research will be required to determine the most efficient way to incorporate these flavonoids into the human diet or supplementation to improve health. These flavonoids could also be used as natural food preservatives or food flavouring.

Written by Ingrid Qemo, BSc

Reference: Gwatidzo, L., Dzomba, P., & Mangena, M. 2018. TLC separation and antioxidant activity of flavonoids from Carissa bispinosa, Ficus sycomorus, and Grewia bicolar fruits. Nutrire. 43:3. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41110-018-0062-5

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