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Ask Tufts Experts February 2019 Issue

Q. I prefer tea to coffee, and I also eat a lot of fruit and enjoy some dark chocolate. Does it matter what food I get flavanols from?


Image PauloVilela | Getty Images

Tea is a better flavanol source than coffee, but coffee has other beneficial compounds. Drink what you like.

A. Judith Thalheimer, RD, LDN, managing editor of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter answers: “Different plant foods have different phytochemical and nutrient profiles, so a varied diet provides exposure to a wide variety of these compounds, including flavanols. There is no reason to eat or drink something you don’t enjoy just for the potential health benefits.

“Flavanols are one of the six major subclasses of flavonoids, polyphenolic plant compounds that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting, antidiabetic, anticancer, and neuroprotective effects in cell and animal studies, and are being extensively studied for potential health effects in humans. Tea and cocoa are two of the best sources of some flavanols, but different types are also found in other foods, including apples, apricots, and red wine. Coffee does not contain high levels of flavanols, but it has other potentially health-promoting compounds.

“There are many different kinds of flavanols, and content varies from food to food (and most likely from variety to variety and from farm to farm, depending on soil and growing conditions, not to mention the impact of cooking and processing methods). As long as you are eating a healthy varied diet rich in plant foods, you can be assured you are getting flavanols, and plenty of other healthful plant compounds as well.”

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