Polyphenols are special chemical compounds that are found in plants. It is thought that the reason that plants have them is because they help protect them from any type of damage that would normally be caused by the ultraviolet rays of the sun. So, in a way, they almost act like an internal kind of sunscreen. Some plants have a higher amount of polyphenols than others do. But the chemical composition of the polyphenols is still the same. Each one is a hexagonal-shaped ring of six carbon atoms. This ring is bonded to oxygen and hydrogen atoms so that it forms a hydroxyl group. While this may be a bit difficult to understand, what it essentially means is that polyphenols are antioxidants that have numerous health benefits to the body. Just a few of the most important ones to know about include:
Improvement in Chronic Inflammation
As part of the body’s normal immune system response to an injury or illness, inflammation will develop. The inflammatory response includes swelling, redness, and a flood of white blood cells that attack any foreign invaders that are attempting to cause harm to the body. As soon as a person is healed, the inflammation is supposed to stop because the threat no longer exists. However, if a person has a problem with their immune system because of an autoimmune system disorder, the inflammation will continue. So, instead of helping to heal the body, the immune system starts to attack it. The resulting pain and tissue damage from inflammation can be reduced by eating a diet that is high in polyphenol-rich foods though because they turn off the chemical signals that cause an inflammatory response.
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Whenever a person has less inflammation in their body from eating polyphenol-rich foods, they have better cardiovascular health. That is because inflammation damages the arteries, veins, and heart. These chemical compounds are great for lowering a person’s bad cholesterol level and raising their good cholesterol level too though, which is important for keeping the arteries clear so that better blood flow can occur. Polyphenols may also be able to help reduce high blood pressure levels in those who already have heart problems, which is important for the prevention of heart attacks and strokes.
Reduction in the Risk of Type-Two Diabetes
Those who have a family history of type-two diabetes may want to consume more polyphenol-rich foods because they may be able to help prevent the onset of the disease. The way that they work is by increasing a person’s physical response to insulin so that it can help keep their blood sugar level stable. Usually, whenever a person develops type-two diabetes, it is because they have become insulin resistant from obesity or eating a poor diet. Polyphenols also help by preventing sugar from being absorbed too quickly. Fiber is beneficial for this purpose too. So many doctors recommend that those who have the highest risk of developing type-two diabetes consume a combination of both polyphenol-rich foods and high-fiber foods.
Better Weight Control
There are four classes of polyphenols, which are flavonoids, phenolic acids, lignans, and stilbenes. Each of the different types of polyphenols work in special ways to improve a person’s health. An example of this can be seen by looking at the way that flavonoid-rich foods seem to help with reducing a person’s weight more than other types of polyphenols do. In fact, research has shown that the regular consumption of flavonoids can reduce a person’s waist size and the total amount that they weigh. Of course, diet and exercise are an important part of the equation too since consuming too many calories and leading a sedentary lifestyle will make it very difficult to shed a few pounds.
The Best Sources of Polyphenols
Interestingly enough, the best source of polyphenols is a spice called cloves. It has a complex flavor that makes it perfect for adding to both sweet and savory dishes, but most people reserve it only for their holiday cooking. So those who prefer to vary their spice use may want to try dried peppermint, star anise, and Mexican oregano instead since they are also all great sources of polyphenols. Vegans who frequently cook with tempeh and soy flour may not realize that they are actually getting a good amount of this plant-based antioxidant. Coffee and black tea drinkers consume plenty of it too. And it is found in numerous fruits and vegetables. A few of them include:
Using Polyphenols Safely
After reading about all the benefits of polyphenols, some may be wondering if there are any risks or side effects that they can cause. The answer is that the safest way to consume them to ensure that there are less health risks is by getting them from food sources. Unfortunately modern cultivation methods produce food very very low levels of nutrients in them these days. Fortunately there are a few very good products that offer the ability to get a concentrated amount of polyphenols by taking a simple supplement every day.
In conclusion, polyphenols are chemical compounds that occur naturally in a wide variety of edible plants. By including them as part your daily intake, a person may be able to have less inflammation, better cardiovascular health, a reduced risk of type-two diabetes, and a lower weight.