Once considered simply decadent pleasures, treats like dark chocolate and red wine have become widely accepted components of a healthy diet in recent years. These popular ingredients have enjoyed an onslaught of positive publicity lately due to their purported health benefits, with some research claiming that drinking a glass of red wine with dinner or enjoying a few squares of dark chocolate each day can do it all. from improving heart health to extending longevity. Many of these benefits are due to their content of polyphenols, a type of natural plant compound with powerful antioxidant properties.
So how can polyphenols affect your health and reduce your risk of chronic disease? Keep reading to learn about the dietary sources and bioavailability of polyphenols, as well as how you can increase your intake to reap the unique benefits this micronutrient has to offer.
So what are polyphenols and how can they affect your health?
The official definition of polyphenols is “any compound containing one or more phenolic hydroxyl groups”, but what does that actually mean? Simply put, polyphenols are a type of micronutrient that contains health-promoting properties and is found in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Plant polyphenols are rich in antioxidants, which can help fight harmful free radicals and prevent cell damage while reducing the risk of chronic disease. Polyphenols have also been linked to many other health benefits, from better blood sugar control to reduced blood clot formation.
There are four groups of polyphenols that are found in different food sources. These main types are:
The best way to get your daily dose of polyphenols is to include plenty of polyphenol-containing foods in your diet. Polyphenol supplements are also available, but they have been linked to some unwanted side effects, such as impaired hormone production and increased cancer growth.
The best foods with polyphenols
There are many food sources of polyphenols that you can easily incorporate into your diet. In particular, coffee, berries, cocoa powder and certain spices and condiments, such as cloves and star anise, contain a high amount of polyphenols.
Here are some of the top foods containing polyphenols that you might want to consider increasing your intake:
6. Other foods
1. High in antioxidants
One of the main benefits of polyphenols is that they are loaded with powerful antioxidants that can help neutralize free radicals and fight disease. Free radicals are unstable compounds that are formed by factors such as stress, pollution and unhealthy diet, build up in the body and damage cells. Studies show that antioxidants can protect against a wide variety of conditions, from heart disease to cancer and diabetes. Thanks to the antioxidant content of polyphenols, eating more foods containing polyphenols may help prevent chronic disease and minimize the risk of oxidative stress.
2. Protect Against Heart Disease
Heart disease is a major concern that affects millions of people around the world. Heart disease is the leading underlying cause of death, accounting for approximately 31.5 million deaths worldwide in 2013. Although many potential factors can play a role in the development of heart disease, changing your diet to include more foods containing polyphenols can be an effective way to keep your heart healthy and strong. Several studies have shown that a higher intake of polyphenols is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. A human study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people with the highest intake of flavonoids, a particular type of polyphenol, had 18% fewer deaths from heart disease compared to people with the highest intake. low consumption of flavonoids. Other research suggests that polyphenols may reduce the risk of heart disease through their ability to scavenge free radicals and reduce chronic inflammation.
3. Relieve inflammation
While acute inflammation is a normal immune response that helps protect against injury and infection, prolonged chronic inflammation can wreak havoc on the body. Not only can it trick your immune system into attacking healthy cells, but it’s also been linked to an increased risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Polyphenols work by reducing oxidative stress which contributes to inflammation. In addition to having tremendous disease-preventing effects, the anti-inflammatory properties of polyphenols may also help reduce symptoms of inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease.
4. Prevent blood clots from forming
Blood clots can be a serious health problem for many people. Blood clots are formed by a process called platelet aggregation, which occurs when platelets in your blood begin to clump together. Although this process is necessary to prevent excessive bleeding, it can also cause serious health problems, such as strokes, pulmonary embolisms and deep vein thrombosis. Polyphenols can help prevent platelet aggregation to block the formation of blood clots. Resveratrol, in particular, is one of the most studied polyphenols, found primarily in the skins of berries and in red wine. Animal models and in vitro studies have demonstrated that resveratrol can effectively inhibit platelet aggregation, thereby reducing the risk of blood clots forming.
5. May Reduce Cancer Development
Along with the multitude of beneficial effects on heart health, promising research also indicates that polyphenols may help block the growth of cancer cells. According to a study published in the journal Nutrients, specific types of polyphenols, such as anthoncyanins, flavanols, flavanones, and phenolic acids, have been shown to decrease the growth and development of cancer cells in in vitro studies. Plus, many of the most cancer-fighting foods are also high in polyphenols and antioxidants, giving you yet another reason to eat nutrient-dense foods like berries, citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, fresh herbs and spices.
6. Promote Blood Sugar Control
High blood sugar can cause side effects like frequent urination, fatigue, and unintentional weight loss. If left unchecked, high blood sugar can also have a range of negative long-term health effects, including symptoms of diabetes such as nerve damage, loss of vision, and impaired wound healing. . Polyphenols may be particularly beneficial for maintaining normal blood sugar levels. According to a 2016 Australian study, in vitro studies have shown that consuming dietary polyphenols can stimulate insulin secretion and inhibit certain enzymes that break down starches into simple sugars to prevent blood sugar spikes. A human study published in the British Journal of Nutrition also showed that higher intake of polyphenols was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Resveratrol and the “French Paradox”
In recent years, red wine has received considerable attention due to its purported health benefits. A phenomenon known as the “French Paradox” was first described in the 1980s, when researchers noticed that the French had lower rates of coronary heart disease than other countries, despite a higher consumption of saturated fats and regular consumption of red wine. There are many potential explanations and theories for the French Paradox, but it is believed to be partly due to the polyphenol content of red wine.
Resveratrol, one of the best-known types of polyphenols, is found in abundance in red wine as well as in the skins of certain types of berries, such as grapes, blueberries, and raspberries. First isolated in 1939 by a Japanese researcher, resveratrol has since been associated with a number of significant health benefits. It has been shown to reduce biomarkers of certain diseases and may even have a therapeutic effect on conditions such as neurological disorders, heart disease and diabetes. Today, many types of polyphenols have been identified and their powerful effects on health have been demonstrated. From hesperidin found in citrus fruits like lemons and oranges to epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) found in green tea, there are many different types of polyphenols available in the diet, all of which exhibit a unique set of health benefits.
Polyphenols are a type of plant compound and micronutrient found in many fruits and vegetables. They are rich in antioxidants and have been linked to better heart health, better blood sugar control, reduced inflammation and lower risk of cancer development. Some of the best sources of polyphenols include fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, tea, coffee, herbs and spices. Although polyphenol supplements are also available, it is best to increase your intake of polyphenol-rich foods instead to minimize the risk of adverse side effects. Combine polyphenol-rich foods with a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle to maximize potential benefits and reduce your risk of chronic disease.