Food

Powerful Antioxidant of the Plant World: Polyphenols

We know that plants have countless benefits on human health. So what makes polyphenols special?

In general terms, plant compounds that have various benefits on human health are called polyphenols. They are especially high in foods such as red wine, dark chocolate, tea, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries. They can neutralize harmful free radicals that increase the risk of cancer, diabetes or heart disease by acting as antioxidants. Polyphenols also reduce inflammation, which is one of the main causes of many chronic diseases; Consuming polyphenol-containing foods on a regular basis is also thought to have benefits in terms of brain and gut health.

Amount and type of polyphenols in foods; It can vary depending on various factors such as its origin, maturity, how it was grown, transported, stored and prepared. We can examine the polyphenols, of which more than 8000 species have been identified so far, in four main groups.

Flavonoids: About 60% of all polyphenols are flavonoids. Quercetin, chemferol, catechin and anthocyanins found in foods such as apples, onions, dark chocolate and red cabbage can be given as examples of this group.

Phenolic acids: This group makes up about 30% of the polyphenols. These include stilbenes and lignans, which are mostly found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and seeds.

Polyphenolic amides: Capsaicinoids found in peppers and avenanthramides found in oats are in this group.

Other polyphenols: This group includes resveratrols found in red wine, ellagic acid in strawberries, curcumin in turmeric and lignans found in flaxseed, sesame seeds and whole grains.

What Good Do Polyphenols Do for Us?

It can lower the amount of sugar in the blood: Polyphenols can help lower blood sugar levels; thereby reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. This is because it can prevent starch from breaking down into simple sugars, making it less likely to spike blood sugar after meals.

May lower your risk of heart disease: Experts attribute the effect of polyphenols on heart health mainly to its antioxidant effect. In this way, it is thought to help reduce chronic inflammation, which is the biggest risk factor for heart disease. 

It can prevent blood clotting: When platelets circulating in our blood start to aggregate, they form blood clots. This condition, known as platelet aggregation, is effective in preventing excessive bleeding. However, excessive platelet aggregation; can cause blood clots that will have adverse health effects. According to studies, polyphenols can prevent the formation of blood clots by helping to reduce the process of platelet aggregation.

May protect against cancer: Studies are uncovering links that diets rich in plant foods reduce cancer risk. It is thought that this may be related to the polyphenols contained in plant foods to some extent.

May promote healthy digestion: Polyphenols; It can contribute to digestion by promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and fending off harmful ones.

It can improve brain functions: Polyphenol-rich foods can help improve your focus and memory.

Which Foods Are Rich in Polyphenols?

Fruits: Apple, peach, black grape, blueberry, lemon, pomegranate, grapefruit, nectarine, strawberry, raspberry, cherry, black elderberry, pear

Vegetables: Asparagus, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, red cabbage, red and white onions, spinach, shallots, chicory

Legumes: Tofu, soy milk, soy yogurt, baked beans, tempeh, Mexican beans 

Kernel and seeds: Almond, hazelnut, chestnut, flaxseed, pecan, walnut

Cereals: Oats, rye, whole grain

Spices: Cumin, celery seed, cinnamon, thyme, sage, rosemary, dried mint, dried basil, clove, star anise,

Other: Black tea, cocoa powder, coffee, dark chocolate, ginger, green tea, olives, olive oil, red wine, vinegar

More for the curious:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/polyphenols#benefits
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257627/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30746536/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30400131/

This article was published on Healthline on July 8, 2019, “What Are Polyphenols? Translated into Turkish from the article “Types, Benefits, and Food Sources”. The views expressed in this article are written to shed light on alternative studies and to encourage conversation about these studies. Even if the articles contain the advice of physicians to some extent, they are for informational purposes only. This text; cannot replace professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment.

About the author:

Rain Huge

Having completed her undergraduate education at the London College of Fashion, Department of Fashion Management, Yağmur Kocaman started her career with internships at Socrates Magazine and Bone Magazine. Next year, Goldsmiths will begin her MA in Cultural Studies at the University of London.

Yağmur Kocaman

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