Welcome everybody to More Than Healthy as we continue to share our weekly health tips. This week is all about Tip #67, the health benefits of the right amount of polyphenols. Or, in other words, another compelling reason to eat lots of healthy fruits and veggies! To watch our weekly Video Tip, click this link. To listen to the audio podcast, click on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.
Polyphenols pack a healthy punch
I’m sure you’ve probably heard the hype that you need to get plenty of polyphenols in your diet, but you might not know the reason why. Most of our clients have heard of polyphenols, but they don’t know what they are, what benefits you get from them, and how to get more of them in their diet. As we answer these questions, you might be surprised about how much healthy power those polyphenols are packing. And hopefully that will inspire you to include more of them when selecting foods to eat.
As an avid reader of books about health, I’ve learned a lot about polyphenols and how important they are. If you’re into the latest research on longevity, or living a healthy, long life, you’ve likely come across information on polyphenols, too.
Polyphenols are a class of compounds found in many plant foods. So far, more than 8,000 different types of polyphenols have been identified, including flavonoids, phenolic acids, lignans, and stilbenes. Most “famous” of the polyphenols are the EGCG in green tea and the resveratrol in grapes and wine. We’ll talk more about that later.
Polyphenols: A powerful antioxidant
Most polyphenols work as antioxidants in the body. We talk a lot about antioxidants, because they’re so key to both vibrant health and antiaging. Antioxidants combat environmental harm, such as UV damage and pollution. They neutralize free radicals by donating an electron or hydrogen atom. Research shows that polyphenols have particularly powerful antioxidant properties, and polyphenols are the most abundant antioxidants in your diet.
Oxidative stress does a lot of damage to our bodies. It causes chronic/fatal disease, heart problems, and inflammation. It also causes problems associated with aging, like wrinkles and grey hair. We need all the protection from oxidative stress that we can get! Polyphenols are powerful protectors when it comes to free radical damage of the body’s tissues.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the amazing health benefits of the right amount of polyphenols.
What are the health benefits of polyphenols?
Benefit #1: Polyphenols have anti-inflammatory properties.
There is a reason that inflammation is such a common denominator in every health tip we share. It’s because chronic inflammation is the root cause of most (if not all) health problems! Many of my health challenges have come from inflammation. It didn’t just make my arthritis and neuropathy pain worse. My brain fog was scaring me – and my family – to death. My whole family thought I had early-stage dementia. Looking back, I can see how I was on a path to even more health challenges because of the chronic inflammation in my body.
The anti-inflammatory properties of polyphenols may help prevent many chronic conditions. Several studies show the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of polyphenols in the brain-liver-gut axis. Polyphenols have been shown to target different stages of the inflammatory cascade to reduce the severity of inflammation.
It is thought that the antioxidant properties of polyphenols seem more helpful in preventing inflammation than as a resolution for inflammation, but I think I experienced both. What I know for sure is that living without chronic inflammation is a lot less painful than living with it! Polyphenols for the win!
Benefit #2: Polyphenols protect against neurological diseases.
The right amount of polyphenols protects against neurological diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Again, this is an area Carla and I are constantly researching and proactively learning about. I’m currently reading a book I highly recommend, called The End of Alzheimer’s by Dale Bredesen. It confirms what I believe, that if we hadn’t started on this path seven years ago and worked so hard to reduce my inflammation, I might now have early-onset dementia. That’s the reality.
All the family was asking Carla, “What is wrong with dad?” They didn’t understand why I couldn’t remember a conversation I’d had with them 10 minutes earlier, or why I was repeating myself over and over again. We didn’t know how much the chemo or the anesthesia affected my health, but everyone could tell things were getting worse.
Nothing got better until we removed the inflammation. One thing we deliberately did was to include many foods that were high in polyphenols in my diet. This is something we continue to do to keep unhealthy inflammation under control, an important part of protecting brain health.
Studies show that polyphenols support various cognitive cell functions, such as:
- Cell differentiation: When cells change from their initial cell type into other cells.
- Signaling: Communication between neurons and your brain that causes certain types of responses or ask body parts to do certain jobs.
- Proliferation: Rapid reproduction of a cell, organism, or body part.
- Apoptosis: The natural death of cells, an important and controlled part of the body’s growth cycle.
Extra good for brain protection: Resveratrol
One of the most well-known polyphenols is resveratrol. Studies show a link between high consumption of resveratrol and delayed onset of Alzheimer’s disease. This particular polyphenol appears to interfere with protein fragments called beta-amyloids, which are crucial to forming the plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies prove that resveratrol sets off a chain of events that protects brain cells from damage. Polyphenols from fruits and vegetables seem to be invaluable potential agents in neuroprotection because of their ability to influence and modulate key cellular processes.
Benefit #3: Polyphenols have an anti-aging effect.
We touched on the anti-aging benefits of antioxidants above. But let’s look more closely at this amazing health benefit. This is where resveratrol gets a lot of buzz. Now that I understand polyphenols more, I understand why.
There are many theories proposed for explaining the aging mechanism, but the free radical/oxidative stress theory is one of the most widely accepted. A certain amount of oxidative damage occurs even under the best of conditions. But the scientific truth is that the rate of damage speeds up during the aging process. And the rate at which our body can heal itself declines the older we get.
Based on the most current research, it really is not an exaggeration to call polyphenols anti-aging compounds. Studies show that an antioxidant-rich diet is effective in reducing the expected effects of aging and behavior. The combination of antioxidant/anti-inflammatory polyphenolic compounds found in fruits and vegetables helps to slow down the aging process.
The proof: We’re getting younger!
One of the most exciting things we’ve done on this health journey is thorough epigenetic testing. These test results prove that these things we’re doing are reversing our age. I may have lived on earth for 66 years, but my epigenetic (or cellular) age currently tests at 43. That’s a full 23 years younger than my actual age! And it’s a huge reversal from what my cells were saying when we began this health journey.
All my studying about longevity and lifestyle changes is paying off! And, Carla and I will continue tracking and testing – and learning –as we go. We fully intend to make progress on holding that number as I chronologically age. We’re doing everything we can to keep our cells as young as possible!
Benefit #4: Polyphenols are good for heart health.
Several studies have shown that a diet high in polyphenols may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, which is still the number one killer in the nation. Polyphenols help blood vessels to produce more nitric oxide, which relaxes arteries, lowers blood pressure, and reduces the risk of plaque sticking to artery walls.
One study with healthy men and mice with heart disease had impressive results. Pomegranate juice, which is rich in polyphenols, was added to their diets. In humans, juice consumption decreased LDL (the bad cholesterol) and increased the activity of serum paraoxonase (an HDL-associated esterase that can protect against lipid peroxidation) by 20%.
In the mice with heart disease, their LDL was reduced by 90% with the pomegranate juice consumption. It also reduced the size of their atherosclerotic lesions (the thickening of the artery wall) by 44%. It’s pretty remarkable that it reduces bad cholesterol and increases your good cholesterol by that much.
I’m all about reducing my bad cholesterol and increasing the good cholesterol as I have genetic markers for heart disease, so I’m doing all I can to mitigate those.
Additional benefits of the right amount of polyphenols
And, there’s more! Studies also show that a diet that is rich in polyphenols provides significant protection against the progression of many other health problems, including certain cancers, diabetes, arthritis, etc. Take a look:
- Resveratrol studies show that it fights several different cancers, including gastric, colon, skin, breast, and prostate cancers.
- Polyphenols, especially resveratrol, help to increase insulin sensitivity and prevent complications from diabetes.
- They can also help in the treatment of arthritis. Resveratrol is currently being studied as a way to treat and prevent joint pain. It appears to protect cartilage from deteriorating, which is a big deal, because there is no way to replace cartilage once it’s gone from your joints.
- Even gut health is improved by polyphenols, as they promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and inhibit the bad.
- And, although human studies are still needed, I find it promising that polyphenols have been shown to extend the lifespan of animals. This is currently a major area of scientific research. So far, evidence shows that polyphenols activate certain genes that ward off diseases of aging and mortality.
How do I get more polyphenols in my diet?
Polyphenols are the unique compounds that give fruit, berries, and vegetables their bright hues. Foods that are really bright or have dark colors tend to be rich sources of antioxidants. Polyphenols contribute to the flavor, aroma, and oxidative power of many natural foods.
So let’s talk about the most common polyphenols and what foods carry the highest concentrations. Even though there are over 8,000 types of polyphenols, there are four main categories. These are:
- Flavonoids: these are found in colorful fruits, vegetables, tea, and wine.
- Phenolic acids: These are found in seeds, skins, and leaves of fruits and vegetables.
- Lignans: These are found in whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
- Stilbenes: These are abundant in peanuts, grapes, and berries.
We’ve broken down some of the most polyphenol-rich foods by category in easy-to-understand charts. See which foods you can add to your diet to take advantage of the health benefits of the right amount of polyphenols.
What foods are high in polyphenols?
Amount of polyphenols per 100 grams
|Black chokeberry||1,700+ mg per 100 grams|
|Elderberries||1,191 mg per 100 grams|
|Blackcurrants||560 mg per 100 grams|
|Blueberries||525 mg per 100 grams|
|Blackberries||248 mg per 100 g|
|Strawberries||225 mg per 100 g|
|Raspberries||126 mg per 100 g|
Berries are high in polyphenols like anthocyanins, flavonols, and phenolic acids. It’s important to note that many of these polyphenols are mainly present in the skin of the berries. So, if a juice doesn’t include the skin, it will lose much of its polyphenol content.
Amount of polyphenols per 100 grams
|Artichokes||260 mg per 100 g|
|Red chicory||235 mg per 100 g|
|Red onion||168 mg per 100 g|
|Green chicory||166 mg per 100 g|
|Spinach||119 mg per 100 g|
SPICES, NUTS, & SEEDS
Amount of polyphenols per 100 grams
|Cloves||15,188 mg per 100 g|
|Star anise||5,460 mg per 100 g|
|Curry powder||285 mg per 100 g|
|Turmeric (Curcumin)||2,213 mg pr 100 g|
|Flaxseed meal||1,528 mg per 100 g|
|Chestnuts||1,215 mg per 100 g|
|Hazelnuts||495 mg per 100 g|
|Pecan nuts||493 mg pr 100 g|
|Almonds||187 mg per 100 g|
It’s important to remember that although spices have a lot of polyphenols, we typically only use them in small amounts, so they provide fewer polyphenols overall.
OLIVES (& OILS), BEANS, & SOY
Amount of polyphenols per 100 grams
|Black olives||569 mg per 100 g|
|Green olives||346 mg per 100 g|
|Extra-virgin olive oil||62 mg per 100 ml|
|Black beans||59 mg per 100 g|
|White beans||51 mg per 100 g|
|Soy flour||466 mg per 100 g|
|Tempeh||148 mg per 100 g|
|Soy yogurt||84 mg per 100 g|
|Soy tofu||42 mg per 100 g|
|Soy milk||18 mg per 100 ml|
COCOA, COFFEE, TEA, & WINE
Amount of polyphenols per 100 grams
|Cocoa||3,448 mg per 100 g|
|Filter coffee||215 mg per 100 ml|
|Black tea||102 mg per 100 ml|
|Green tea||89 mg per 100 ml|
|Red wine||101 mg per 100 ml|
A few important notes about the items listed above:
–Not all chocolate boost polyphenols equally. Always check cocoa content. There’s an especially big difference between milk and dark chocolate. Dark chocolate provides 1,664 mg per 100 g, where milk chocolate has 236 mg per 100 g. Always look for good quality dark chocolate with 70% of greater cocoa content for highest levels of polyphenols. (For more about the surprising health benefits of chocolate, see our post here.)
–Our clients that are wine drinkers always love to hear how red wine is high in polyphenols. We always recommend drinking in moderation. Alcohol is not the healthiest beverage, and it comes back flagged in many of our clients’ hair analyses tests. But because red wine is produced using the skin of grapes, it has a higher polyphenol content than other wines.
Do you need more polyphenols?
Test for polyphenols with a More Than Healthy Hair Analysis
If you don’t know if you’re getting enough polyphenols in your diet, then a great way to find out is with hair analysis testing, an amazing, informative service now offered at More Than Healthy. With just a few strands of your hair, you receive a full report looking at toxins, nutrients, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, electromagnetic frequency exposure, chemicals, radiation, parasites, immune factors, and foods you should avoid.
So many health benefits of the right amount of polyphenols!
Did you learn something new about polyphenols? Which polyphenol-rich foods are you going to add to your diet? I know I’m more motivated than ever to get lots of healthy, antioxidant-filled polyphenols in my diet every day!
As always, we enjoy hearing from you. If you have any health questions go to our social media pages on Facebook or Instagram (@morethanhealthyliving). We try to respond to all questions.
And remember, we’re not doctors. We’re just sharing with you what’s worked for us on our health journey. You will want to consult your doctor before making any major changes to your diet and supplementation.
We’d love to become your health coaches as you work to become “more than healthy” and achieve optimal health. Thanks for joining us, and we’ll see you next week.