To find out why luteolin is so powerful when it comes to protecting your mind and body from the damaging effects of inflammation, we tapped into Uma Naidoo, MD—a Harvard-trained nutritional psychiatrist, professional chef, nutritional biologist, and national and international bestselling author, It’s your brain on the food– for his ideas. Plus: Seven foods with luteolin that she recommends the most.
What is Luteolin?
Dr. Naidoo begins by saying that luteolin is a flavonoid present in many fruits, vegetables and herbs. “Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant, specifically a polyphenol— which helps plant cells defend against a variety of environmental or situational stressors,” she says. When you eat plant-based foods that contain them, flavonoids boost their antioxidant abilities by protecting cells from damage caused by oxidative stress and inflammation. “Specifically, luteolin has been shown to have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in humans,” adds Dr. Naidoo.
How Luteolin Benefits Your Health
The majority of luteolin’s benefits can be attributed to its anti-inflammatory effects, which work wonders for promote health and well-being at all levels. “Luteolin is associated with reduced brain fog, reduced stress and symptoms of anxiety, improved memory, and reduced risk of cognitive decline,” says Dr. Naidoo. “It has also been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and improved cardiovascular health – likely due to its anti-inflammatory effects in our blood vessels – and has also been implicated in improving cancer treatment as it has antitumor properties.”
Simply put, Luteolin is a powerful antioxidant that helps sharpen your cognitive acuity, improve your mental health, and ward off the risk of developing or exacerbating some pretty serious health issues. So getting more of it in your diet is wise, stat.
The Best Foods Containing Luteolin, According to a Nutritional Psychiatrist
Parsley is one of Dr. Naidoo’s favorite herbs because it’s a key source of micronutrients that support neurological health, with luteolin (and folate) among them. “Parsley can help improve mental fitness, brain health, energy levels, and overall cognition,” she explains, adding that she loves topping this herb into salads and loading up on nutrient-rich chimichurri. parsley with grass-fed steak, grilled tofu, or cauliflower.
This purple leafy vegetable is another great source of luteolin, making it a good option to use as a base for salads or even as a substitute for wraps and tortillas. “Its leaves look like little boats, so I like to make healthy tacos by stuffing a radicchio leaf with other chopped vegetables, avocado and a clean protein, seasoned with cumin and oregano and a burst of freshly squeezed lime,” shares Dr Naidoo. Taco Tuesday with brain- and heart-boosting benefits, anyone?
3. Green peppers
Besides being rich in luteolin, green peppers also contain many other bioactive compounds “that exhibit antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, immunosuppressive, and immune-stimulating properties, and antidiabetic, antitumor, and neuroprotective activities,” according to a researcher. 2021 report in the medical journal Molecules. Dr. Naidoo advises eating green peppers either “raw and chopped in a colorful salad or grilled on colorful skewers alongside other seasonal vegetables.” Bonus points go to those who add these colorful peppers to the radicchio tacos above.
4. Chicory leaves
Although I know chicory from New Orleans-style coffee (which involves roasting, grinding and infuse the root of the plant), Dr. Naidoo says their greens can be incorporated into meals similar to other leafy greens. However, she warns that they have a robust flavor profile, so she offers some tips for enjoying them without overwhelming your palate. “I recommend adding chicory leaves to soups or stews, or sautéing them in avocado oil for a tasty side dish,” she advises.
Whether you prefer your celery raw, cooked, or juiced, this versatile vegetable can help boost your intake of anti-inflammatory luteolin. Dr. Naidoo mentions that it’s a staple in many nutritious soup recipes (in fact, I’m slow cooking a hearty chicken soup loaded with chopped stalks right now), and it also goes well with hummus or almond butter for a healthy, moisturizing and crunchy snack.
As if we needed one more reason to love this fall staple, pumpkin is also a good source of luteolin. “I love roasting pumpkin and mashing it into a warming soup with earthy spices like cinnamon and cloves,” says Dr. Naidoo. Out of season, you can also snack on a handful of pumpkin seeds or incorporate them into any number of recipesas they contain small amounts of this anti-inflammatory flavonoid.
Last on Dr. Naidoo’s list of luteolin foods is kohlrabi, a cruciferous vegetable that tastes similar to broccoli stalks. “Kohrabi is one of my favorite vegetables; I love cleaning it up and cutting pieces to snack on,” she shares. You can also toss it into salads or enjoy it steamed, sautéed or grilled as part of larger meals.