Flavanols are a natural compound commonly found in foods and drinks such as cocoa, grapes, and teas. Research suggests they may have several beneficial health effects.

Flavanols, sometimes called flavan-3-ols or catechins, are a type of chemical compound found in various fruits, vegetables, and plants.

Research from 2022 suggests that flavanols may have antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties.

Read on to learn more about flavanols, including their benefits, food sources, and supplements.

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Flavanols are a subtype of a group of natural compounds called flavonoids in fruits, vegetables, and other plants. The chemical structure of flavanols differs from other flavonoids, and a 2016 paper has shown they are vital to many medications and may provide many health benefits.

Many medications use plants containing flavanols. They can help treat conditions such as viral infections, diabetes, and liver disease.

Flavanols act as antioxidants, which means they can neutralize harmful free radicals. These can damage cells, contributing to illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

There are four main types of flavanol found in nature:

  • flavan-3-ols
  • flavan-4-ols
  • isoflan-4-ols
  • flavan-3,4-ols

In the United States, simple flavan-3-ols are the most commonly consumed type.

Many fruits, vegetables, and other plants contain flavanols. Flavanols and other flavonoids often give plants a red or purple color, meaning many purple and red plants are rich in flavanols.

Flavan-3-ol-rich foods and drinks include:

Flavanols are present in many common foods and beverages, and most people consume enough if they eat a balanced diet containing fruits and vegetables.

However, some additional flavanol supplements are available.

Common supplements include cocoa extract supplements in pill or powder form. Cocoa is rich in flavanols, and there is a significant amount of analysis into its benefits. According to a 2021 study, there is ongoing research into the possibility that cocoa flavanol intake may be beneficial for those with certain cardiovascular conditions.

It is also possible that supplementing cocoa in the diet may help lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and help manage diabetes. However, this is also not proven.

An individual should consult a doctor before taking these supplements.

Further resources

For more in-depth resources about vitamins, minerals, and supplements, visit our dedicated hub.

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Flavanols have a range of health benefits. Research suggests that they may act as:

  • antioxidants
  • anti-inflammatories
  • anticarcinogens
  • antivirals
  • antimicrobials

Antioxidants can provide a range of health benefits, such as reducing oxidative stress, which can cause symptoms such as:

Flavanols may also be beneficial for neurological health. In addition, they may have neuroprotective properties, helping a person maintain cognitive abilities and providing benefits for those with neurodegenerative conditions. However, this has yet to be proven, and research is ongoing.

There is no official recommendation for how much flavanols a person should consume. However, experts state that a daily intake of 400–600 milligrams may allow people to get the most benefit from flavanols.

Flavanols are a natural compound belonging to the flavonoid family. They have a range of potential health benefits that researchers continue to study and understand.

Many fruits, vegetables, and other plants are rich in flavanols, and flavanol supplements are available to increase a person’s intake. However, individuals should do this under the guidance of a healthcare professional.