Could eating the right flowers help stave off cardiovascular disease and certain cancers?
It sounds like wishful science fiction, but a recent study published in the Journal of Food Science indicates that a group of edible flowers found in China actually contain compounds correlating with anti-inflammatory activity and the prevention of chronic illnesses.
In a study funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, a team of researchers tested the antioxidant properties and phenolic compounds — the spectrum of plant-based compounds that serve a useful function in human heath, including beta carotene, vitamin C, folic acid, and others — of 10 common Chinese edible flowers which have been a part of China’s culinary traditions for centuries.
The researchers found that two flowers, Paeonia suffruticosa (a tree peony) and Flos lonicerae (a species of honeysuckle), showed the highest total phenolic content (TPC), and that high phenolic content correlated strongly with anti-oxidant capacities. Although further research is needed, the practical implications for the findings have the potential to be quite strong.
“This study not only provides useful information about the health benefit of edible flowers for consumers, but also encourages researchers to utilize edible flowers as sources of phytochemicals,” the study noted in summary. “In addition, the flower extracts have the potential to be used as additives in food to prevent chronic disease."
Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.