What these natural plant chemicals can do for your health almost defies description, but we’ll try anyway. Check this out.
We’ve only just begun to explore the universe of polyphenols, and the potential benefits appear boundless. Polyphenols may extend not just life span but “health span,” where men and women age but retain the vigor, strength, and mobility of youth. Polyphenols, in all likelihood, also enhance athletic performance.
The trouble is that few people know what polyphenols are outside of a few nutritionists and scientists. Let’s fix that.
Polyphenols are natural compounds found in plants responsible for their color, taste, and aroma. They’re one of three major branches of phytochemicals. Polyphenols are probably the largest of the group, comprising more than 8,000 different phytochemicals.
Their assigned task in plants is to play chemical bodyguard. Polyphenols defend against excess UV light, insects, fungi, and various diseases. The beautiful thing? They appear to do much of the same for the humans that ingest them.
Most of the beneficial effects were first attributed back in the 1990s to their anti-oxidant effect, but the reality is much more complex. Their biological effects involve detailed biochemical interactions that we’ve only just started to understand.
Regardless of the exact mechanism, polyphenols reduce inflammation. They prevent platelet aggregation (clotting) and lower blood pressure. They protect against exercise-induced oxidative stress and increase insulin sensitivity. They reduce cholesterol. They might even have some beneficial effects against terminal diseases.
Google practically any specific fruit or vegetable and a major disease, and you’ll find at least one study that found that the fruit or vegetable, courtesy of the polyphenols it contains, showed some promise in treating that disease. The point is that the potential list of their beneficial effects is, in fact, exhaustive.
There are at least three polyphenol groups. They are:
This group has eight different subclassifications, including flavanols, isoflavones, and anthocyanins. In humans, the flavonoids exhibit a wide range of effects. They’re anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic, and even anti-carcinogenic (at least in test tube experiments). They also modulate many key cellular enzyme functions.
There are two groups here: hydrobenzoic acids and hydroxycinnamic acids. Like the flavonoids, phenolic acids have strong anti-oxidative powers. They have anti-microbial action, anti-cancer properties, anti-inflammatory action, and anti-mutagenic powers.
This group includes tannins, the curcuminoids like curcumin, the stilbenes, and lignans.
While also anti-oxidative, stilbenes show promise in protecting against age-related diseases. The curcuminoids, however, have a particularly diverse set of powers ranging from enhanced cardiovascular health to reduced risk of diabetes and reduction of plaque levels in the arteries.
Stilbenes, like resveratrol, are found predominantly in grapes and berries and have shown aptitude in mitigating age-related diseases, type-2 diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Lignans are found primarily in grains and flaxseed. They’re interesting because they have a steroid-like structure and most are, in fact, defined as phytoestrogens (plant substances that mimic the action of estrogen). They appear to play a role in treating menopausal symptoms and osteoporosis.
Most people consume just over a gram of polyphenols a day just by eating a normal diet. Much of their intake invariably ends up being comprised of a single polyphenol – the flavanol quercetin – because it’s almost ubiquitous.
That’s hardly ideal because diversity is what we want. Given all the potential health attributes of the wide world of polyphenols, it makes sense to try to ingest as many different polyphenols as possible to cover your health-related bases.
This is where my “polyphenol diet” might come in handy. I’ve listed seven different categories of plant-based foods. The idea is simply to try to get at least a serving of each of them every day, doing your best to ensure a broad polyphenol complement.
Here they are:
- Vegetables: Artichokes, potatoes, rhubarb, yellow onions, red cabbage, cherry tomatoes, leeks, broccoli, celery.
- Fruits: Berries, apples, apricots, plums, pears, grapes, cherries. The darker the fruit, the higher the polyphenol content.
- Whole Grains: Buckwheat, rye, oats, barley, corn, wheat, rice.
- Nuts, Seeds, Legumes: Black beans, white beans, pecans, almonds, walnuts, flaxseed, chestnuts, hazelnuts.
- Fats: Extra virgin olive oil, sesame seed oil, dark chocolate.
- Beverages: Coffee, tea, red wine, cocoa. (Obviously, these are all liquid forms of foods from some of the other groupings, but it’s more convenient to think of them as a separate group.)
- Spices: Oregano, rosemary, soy sauce, cloves, peppermint, anise, celery seed, saffron, spearmint, thyme, basil, curry powder, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, garlic.
Eating something from each of these groups every day might appear a daunting task. Alternately, or as a supplement to your daily polyphenol intake, you can use Superfood, a blend of high-polyphenol fruits, berries, and vegetables gathered farm-fresh, desiccated (removing all cellulose and indigestible plant matter like husks, rinds, stems, and seed coatings), and freeze-dried so that they retain their nutrients and overall anti-oxidative capabilities.
Use one scoop (2.5 grams) of Superfood every day. Just stir it into water or juice, mix it in oatmeal or yogurt, or blend it into your protein shakes to ensure you get a hefty dose of polyphenols.
Certain polyphenols are more powerful than others. Thanks to supplement technology, we can take substantial “doses” of individual superhero polyphenols in capsule form to address specific health needs.
Curcumin: This curcuminoid is a powerful anti-inflammatory and has analgesic properties unparalleled in the plant world. Other abilities include enhanced cardiovascular health, body fat reduction, reduced plaque in arteries, reduced risk of diabetes, and blocking the conversion of estrogen to testosterone (thus increasing T levels). Be sure to use micellar curcumin which utilizes solid lipid curcumin particles, producing 95 times more free curcumin in the bloodstream than standardized curcumin with piperine (Gota VS et al., 2010).
Cyanidin 3-Glucoside: This flavonoid has a broad range of abilities, including increasing insulin sensitivity, lowering blood sugar, reducing body fat, reducing cholesterol, improving skeletal muscle endurance, reducing the risk of heart attack, and even improving night vision, among others. It’s found in Indigo-3G.
EGCG: This is the most potent catechin found in tea. It supports cardiovascular, brain, metabolic, and cellular health. It’s also part of our Superfood formula.
Punicalagin: This “sex polyphenol” is found in high concentrations in pomegranate (mostly the rind) and can block both the conversion of testosterone to estrogen and the conversion of testosterone to DHT, in effect raising testosterone levels in men. It also increases nitric oxide production, thus leading to improved erections. Our P-Well formula contains 180 mg of punicalagin (from pomegranate whole fruit extract).
Resveratrol: This stilbene is known as a longevity supplement. It has a broad spectrum of other abilities, including lowering blood sugar in Type 1 and 2 diabetics, reducing blood pressure, improving endothelial health, and modulating higher-than-desired estrogen levels in men. Rez-V contains 600 mg of resveratrol per serving.
Fisetin: Aside from extending the life of various lab animals, this flavanol can reduce body fat, help regular blood sugar, protect skin from UV radiation, lower blood pressure, and fight irritable bowel disease.
Oleocanthol: This polyphenol is responsible for that burning sensation you feel in the back of your throat when you ingest olive oil. It’s most famous for being a non-selective inhibitor of COX (an enzyme involved in inflammation and pain), which may make it responsible for the low incidence of heart disease associated with the Mediterranean diet.
Rosmarinic Acid: This compound is found primarily in the spice rosemary. As is the case with other life/health-extending phytochemicals, rosmarinic acid seems to up-regulate the expression of certain genes that ultimately affect life span, but this polyphenol appears to be particularly gifted in that area.
Silybin: Long used by professional bodybuilders to protect their livers from steroid-induced damage, this flavanone, commonly known (and derived from) the milk thistle plant, has other superpowers, too. It appears to increase fat burning, muscle growth, and even athletic performance.
The medical profession has long recommended that we eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. So has nearly every health-related publication in the last hundred years. So has your mom. They might not have known exactly why fruits and vegetables were good for you, but now YOU do.
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