Polyphenols are plant compounds that give many fruits and vegetables characterized by bright colors. These plant compounds are some of the best antioxidants in food, and they have anti-inflammatory properties that are good for the brain, heart and intestinal health. There are more than 8,000 different types of polyphenols, and they are found in a wide range of foods, including green tea, red wine, cocoa, nuts, herbs and spices. Listed below are 11 reasons why polyphenols are good for your health.
1. They are Potent Antioxidants:
Polyphenols are the most common antioxidants in the diet. In fact, about 10 times more polyphenols than vitamin C and 100 times more polyphenols than vitamin E and carotenoids, which are also other antioxidants, are ingested. Antioxidants help fight oxidative stress caused by free radicals, which are molecules that can damage body cells and contribute to cancer and aging. They are also very important for overall health. In fact, people who eat many antioxidants have lower rates of death and cancer. A study in 86 people who were overweight or obese found that after a diet rich in polyphenols for eight weeks, oxidative stress was significantly reduced. Also, juices and extracts of berries rich in antioxidants and polyphenols have been shown to reduce oxidative stress in humans. These studies suggest that by reducing oxidative stress, foods rich in polyphenols can reduce the risk of many other diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cancer.
Summary: Polyphenols are strong antioxidants that can help prevent cellular damage caused by oxidative stress.
2. It can Help Reduce Cholesterol:
High blood cholesterol is an important risk factor for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the world.
“Interestingly, polyphenols can help reduce cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease”.
One study found that a diet rich in polyphenols significantly reduced triglyceride levels and LBD (low density lipoprotein) or “bad” cholesterol in people who are overweight and obese. In particular, cocoa polyphenols are very effective in reducing the levels of LBD or “bad” cholesterol, and at the same time increasing the levels of LAD (high density lipoprotein) or “good” cholesterol. Other foods rich in polyphenols, such as olive oil and green tea, also seem to have similar beneficial effects. Moreover, a large study of more than 1,200 people showed that eating berries rich in polyphenols could also reduce the levels of LBD or “bad” cholesterol.
Summary: Strong evidence shows that diets and foods rich in polyphenols, such as berries and olive oil, can reduce levels of LBD or “bad” cholesterol and increase levels of LAD or “good” cholesterol.
3. It can Help Lower Blood Pressure:
High blood pressure is another risk factor for heart disease. It can be caused by a buildup of plaque in the blood vessels or arteries. This accumulation results in an increase in pressure, which can cause the arteries to thicken, increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Polyphenols can help the endothelium – the inner layer of blood vessels – to relax, thereby reducing blood pressure. A large study that included more than 1,300 people showed that drinking green tea rich in polyphenols can significantly reduce blood pressure. Olives and olive leaves also contain many amounts of polyphenols, and it is one of the reasons why olive oil is one of the healthiest oils. In fact, one study found that consuming an ounce (30 ml) of olive oil per day for four months can improve the condition of the endothelium. In addition, a couple of studies have shown that drinking grape, cranberry or strawberry juice rich in polyphenols for 6-12 weeks can reduce blood pressure in both healthy people and people with high blood pressure. Another study found that polyphenols from oranges or orange juice could improve the condition of blood vessels.
Summary: Polyphenols can help relax blood vessels. Therefore, foods rich in polyphenols such as olive oil, green tea and certain fruit juices can help lower blood pressure.
4. It Can Help Prevent Certain Cancers:
Polyphenols can also help prevent certain cancers by reducing oxidative stress, inflammation and the growth of cancer cells. However, there is very little evidence of this effect in studies in humans. Rather, most of the evidence comes from observational studies or test tubes. The evidence on digestive tract cancers is mixed. Some studies have shown that increased intake of flavonoids reduces the risk of esophageal and gastric cancer, while others have not shown any effect. The effects of polyphenols on other types of cancer appear to be stronger. In fact, women with a higher intake of several polyphenols may have lower rates of breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer. Similarly, large studies in patients with lung and bladder cancer also show that the consumption of high amounts of polyphenols may have protective effects. In addition, polyphenols can help treat prostate cancer by reducing prostate specific antigen (APE) levels. Elevated levels of this protein are seen in men with prostate cancer. For example, one study showed that eating a supplement of either pomegranate, green tea, broccoli or turmeric, rich in polyphenols for six months, significantly reduced PSA in men with prostate cancer. This is an interesting area of research, and more studies can show the importance of polyphenols in the prevention or fight against cancer.
Summary: Polyphenols can help reduce certain types of cancer, especially prostate cancer, through their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. However, further studies are needed to confirm this.
5. Good for Intestinal Health:
When you eat polyphenols, only 5-10% of them are absorbed by the body in the small intestine. The remaining 90-95% travel down the colon, where trillions of bacteria break them down into smaller molecules. As a result, many polyphenols act as a food source for beneficial bacteria in the intestines. Grapes are a good source of polyphenols, and there are many polyphenols in wine. A series of studies have shown that red wine extracts help the growth of some beneficial bacteria in the intestines, such as Akkermansia. Akkermansia is a healthy bacteria that can help you lose weight. Other polyphenols have also been shown to increase levels of Bifidobacteria, which are beneficial bacteria frequently used as probiotics, and short chain fatty acids, which are important for intestinal health.
Summary: Most polyphenols are not absorbed in the small intestine and instead travel to the large intestine, where they can promote the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria thereby improving intestinal health.
6. May Decrease the Risk of Blood Sugar and Diabetes:
High blood sugar can increase the risk of diabetes. Fortunately, polyphenols can reduce the risk of diabetes by helping insulin eliminate blood sugar. A large study that included more than 250,000 people found that those with the highest intake of flavonoid polyphenols had a 9% lower risk of diabetes, compared to people with lower intakes. A similar study found that people who ate many foods rich in polyphenols, such as blueberries, apples and pears, also had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Polyphenol-rich diets can reduce the risk of diabetes by lowering blood sugar and increasing insulin production, which transports blood sugar to the cells. In fact, green tea polyphenols, berries and olive leaves have been shown to improve the risk factors and symptoms of diabetes.
Summary: There is strong evidence that suggests that different polyphenols may reduce blood sugar and other risk factors for diabetes.
7. Promotes Bone Health:
Oxidative stress and inflammation can also damage bones. Bone damage can eventually lead to diseases such as osteoporosis, which increases the risk of bone fractures. Polyphenols can promote bone health by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, while supporting bone mineral density through the growth of new bone cells. Two studies in more than 3,000 Chinese and Scots found that those with the highest intake of flavonoid polyphenols had higher bone mineral density. It has been shown that a type of polyphenol called isoflavones, found in soy products, benefits bone health. A large two-year study found that women who took 120 mg of soy isoflavones each day experienced less bone loss than those who did not. Similar studies have also found that soy polyphenols can benefit bone health, although other studies have found no beneficial effects. However, a large study that combined the results of another 10 studies found that taking at least 90 mg of soy isoflavone polyphenols daily for six months significantly increased bone density in menopausal women. Other studies have shown that other foods rich in polyphenols, including green tea, cranberry juice and olive oil, also have beneficial effects on bone health.
Summary: Polyphenols, particularly soy isoflavones, can support bone health. This is especially true in middle age when the risk of bone diseases such as osteoporosis can be reduced.
8. It can Reduce Inflammation:
Inflammation occurs when the immune system is activated to fight an infection. However, if inflammation persists for long periods, it can contribute to many disorders, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Polyphenols can help reduce inflammation, cocoa polyphenols being particularly effective in reducing inflammation. A series of studies have shown that if cocoa polyphenols are eaten for five days to six weeks, they can reduce inflammation in those at high risk of heart disease and insulin resistance. Other polyphenols, such as whole wheat and non-alcoholic beer, can also reduce inflammation. However, the combination of polyphenols can be even more effective. A recent study found that eating a mixture of polyphenols for 15 days reduces inflammation in women.
Summary: Polyphenols, especially those of cocoa, have anti-inflammatory properties. They can benefit a variety of conditions.
9. It can Help Prevent Weight Gain:
Polyphenols can help prevent weight gain in obese, overweight or normal weight people. A recent study found that a higher intake of polyphenols was associated with a significantly reduced weight in more than 100,000 people. Green tea is high in polyphenols and is the most commonly consumed beverage in Asian countries, after water. Importantly, green tea can help prevent weight gain and even lose weight naturally. This can be done by reducing food intake and fat cell formation, as well as increasing energy expenditure, all of which helps prevent weight gain. A large study that combined the results of another 10 studies found that taking green tea polyphenols for at least 12 weeks was able to lose more than 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of weight. More importantly, these people did not regain lost weight.
Summary: Some polyphenols, especially those found in green tea, can help you lose weight and keep it off.
10. It can Help Decrease Brain Degeneration:
As you get older, your brain health begins to decrease, possibly leading to diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Polyphenols can help prevent degeneration of brain health by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, two important factors characteristic of degeneration in brain health. Some studies have examined the intake of polyphenols in people over 65 and have assessed their brain health 5 and 10 years later. These studies have found that those with the highest intake of polyphenols had a significantly reduced risk of dementia and cognitive decline. Grapes contain a number of important polyphenols. One study showed that older people with mild cognitive decline showed significantly better verbal learning after drinking grape juice for 12 weeks. A study in healthy older people examined the effects of drinking cranberry juice and found similar results. Another study found that after consuming a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables rich in polyphenols or drinking a cocoa drink rich in polyphenols, a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (FNDC) could increase in young and older people.
The FNDC is an important chemist involved in learning. This study also found that diets rich in polyphenols improve cognition. Similar studies have shown that polyphenols can beneficially alter other chemicals involved in brain health in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. However, other studies have shown that some polyphenols do not improve brain health. Therefore, the evidence remains a bit uncertain.
Summary: Some evidence suggests that polyphenols can improve brain health in the elderly by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. However, more studies are needed.
11. They are Found in Many Common and Delicious Foods:
One great thing about polyphenols is that they are found in many delicious foods. Since there are many types of polyphenols, it is important to eat a wide variety of foods that contain them, especially fruits and vegetables. One study identified the 100 richest dietary sources of polyphenols. Below are some of these foods and their polyphenol content.
- Cocoa powder:3,448 mg of polyphenols per 100 grams
- Darkchocolate :1,664 mg of polyphenols per 100 grams
- Flaxseed:1,528 mg of polyphenols per 100 grams
- Dried rosemary:1,018 mg of polyphenols per 100 grams
- Cranberries:836 mg of polyphenols per 100 grams
- Black olives:569 mg of polyphenols per 100 grams
- Hazelnuts:495 mg of polyphenols per 100 grams
- Strawberries:235 mg of polyphenols per 100 grams
- Coffee:214 mg of polyphenols per 100 grams
- Almonds:187 mg of polyphenols per 100 grams
- Red wine:101 mg of polyphenols per 100 ml
- Green tea:89 mg of polyphenols per 100 grams
This list is only a sample, and there are many other sources of polyphenols, so it is easy to ingest a wide variety of polyphenols through a regular diet.
Summary: Polyphenols are found in many delicious foods, such as red wine, dark chocolate and berries, so it is easy to consume a lot of them through a regular diet.
Polyphenols are plant compounds that are extremely important for your health. Its main property that promotes health is its antioxidant effect, but they also have a number of beneficial health effects, including the reduction of inflammation. Many studies have shown that polyphenols can reduce the risk and improve the symptoms of many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and bone health. Fortunately, these healthy compounds are found in many delicious foods, including dark chocolate, coffee, berries and red wine. By eating a wide range of these foods in moderation, you can reap many healthy benefits that polyphenols provide.