Polyphenol Pills and Powders
Are veggie pills and plant powders worth taking? Here’s what you need to know about them and their purported polyphenol powers.
Balance of Nature Can Stick It
Other than the exorbitant price, I’ve got no real beef with Balance of Nature’s fruit and vegetable supplements. Nah, it’s their commercials that make me want to chuck an organic muskmelon at the screen of my 75-inch Samsung.
You’ve seen some of them, right? There’s a whole series, each of them a first-person (presumably a satisfied customer) account of how the supplement changed their life.
There’s Vince, who, despite being in the field of nutrition for 30 years, didn’t eat his fruits and vegetables. But after taking Balance of Nature, he’s now able to stumble around a pickleball court like Frankenstein with an inner ear infection.
And then there’s Kathie Lee Gifford, who’s regained her “va-va-voom” and isn’t retiring, but “refiring”; James, who can now straighten back up after putting a golf ball (dream bigger, James!); and John, a baggy 58-year-old who now feels like he’s 48 and can continue to restore his sad old antiques, all thanks to Balance of Nature.
My favorite, though, is Lonnie, a 50-year-old shopping cart wrangler at Costco who found he couldn’t keep up with the younger cart wranglers:
“The other fellas grew resentful of me and started to make fun of me. One day, though, after hours, they grabbed me and took turns dipping my head into a 50-gallon drum of jalapeno bean dip. Afterwards, one of the fellas opened a bag of Doritos and started scooping dip off my head. In-between bites, he told me I should take Balance of Nature. Well, I started taking the product, and now, after a month, the fellas all call me Choo-choo, not because they pulled a bean-dip train on me, but because I’m powerful like a locomotive and can push 20 carts back into the store at once.”
Okay, maybe I only thought I saw that one.
Look, I’m a huge believer in the healthful attributes of fruits and vegetables. Hell, I even helped develop a similar product for Biotest called Superfood that’s been around almost as long as Balance of Nature. More accurately, I believe in the healthful attributes of the polyphenols and carotenoids contained in fruits and vegetables.
That said, it’s unlikely that taking a fruit and vegetable supplement, or eating actual fruits and vegetables, would result in any noticeable increases in energy. They’re fruits and vegetables, for crissake, not steroids or meth. They’re not even Red Bull.
I take that back. Maybe they could restore or increase energy, but only under the following conditions:
- You were trapped underground in a cave in Chile for more than two months with nothing to eat every day but bizcochito crumbs and two spoonfuls of tuna.
- You were a 17th-century pirate on the high seas and couldn’t understand why your legs now resembled those of ol’ Sally Seadog, the dancer at the Blow the Man Down strip club in Tortuga who’s given so many lap dances her legs have begun to bow out.
- You’d just finished the latest Hollywood diet, the 40-day “Nothin’ but Ho-Hos for Hos” diet.
I also resent the subtle implication that their product can entirely replace whole fruits and vegetables in a person’s diet, plus the rather strong implication that their product is all you need for health; to hell with the thousands of other polyphenols found in other plant foods; to hell with the nutrients found in meats and grains.
Again, all this may sound like I’m dissing one of our own products, committing some sort of corporate hari-kari by disemboweling my wallet of cash with some sharp truth instead of a sharp sword, but I’m not.
Balance of Nature and Superfood are based on a sound concept. They’re both good products, but I think Biotest’s Superfood is better and far more economical. Compare 90 bucks a month for Balance of Nature (70 if you pony up 20 for a membership) to under 19 bucks a month for Superfood).
So, if claiming that a product will give customers more energy is rather ingenuous, what good are supplements like Balance of Nature and Superfood?
The Medical Effects of Polyphenols
Polyphenols are the largest group of dietary antioxidants known. Their numbers are legion, but the best guess is that they can claim over 8,000 different chemical structures. They’re known for their ability to scavenge free radicals and donate hydrogen atoms, electrons, and metal cations.
Because of these mechanisms, they play an enormous but largely unrecognized role in preventing and protecting against some of the worst killers to afflict man.
POLYPHENOLS AND OBESITY
Studies conducted in vitro, in animals, and in humans found that specific polyphenols may increase thermogenesis and energy expenditure, in addition to decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress in general, thereby facilitating weight loss.
The known polyphenol champions in this area are epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and anthocyanins. Large amounts of the former are found in tea or tea extract (found in Superfood but not Balance of Nature), while large amounts of the latter are found in blue-colored fruits and vegetables, including Biotest’s Indigo-3G®.
POLYPHENOLS AND CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE
Oxidative stress is a primary boogieman in the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD). It mucks up the way the linings of the blood vessels (the endothelium) function, which triggers atherosclerosis and, ultimately, CVD.
Polyphenols also increase the production of nitric oxide (NO), which in effect widens the highways through which red blood cells travel, thereby avoiding the cardiac version of a 100-car pile-up, otherwise known as a stroke.
Other notable effects include lowering of LDL cholesterol, raising of HDL cholesterol, and beneficial effects on blood pressure.
While several polyphenols might play a role in defending the cardiovascular system, quercetin seems to be its true champion. You can find relatively ginormous amounts of it in capers, red onion, and berries.
POLYPHENOLS AND TYPE 2 DIABETES
Flavonoids, particularly anthocyanins found in berries, can kneecap the risk of type 2 diabetes by decreasing the post-prandial insulin response and improving insulin secretion and sensitivity. They’re able to do this, the thinking goes, because they inhibit the digestion of carbs, along with slowing intestinal glucose absorption.
They also stimulate insulin secretion and modulate the liver’s release of glucose, while also triggering advantageous gene expression and cell signaling pathways.
POLYPHENOLS AND CANCER
Apoptosis is a kind of cell death. It sounds bad, but it’s an absolutely vital process in the health of an organism. Cells get old. They stop functioning normally. Left unchecked, they could turn cancerous. Apoptosis gets rid of them before they can cause any trouble.
However, once cancer cells develop, apoptosis may be blocked. That’s where polyphenols come in. They act like John Wick and cause beautifully choreographed havoc by initiating apoptosis.
Polyphenols also promote other cell defense systems, as well as modulate cell cycle signaling (pathways that control cell proliferation). Numerous studies confirm that a high flavonoid intake is related to a lower incidence of cancer, particularly those of the colon, lung, and stomach.
POLYPHENOLS AND NEUROLOGICAL DISORDERS
The antioxidant properties of various polyphenols improve brain health and brain function. They protect brain cells from being damaged, improve “synaptic plasticity” (thus allowing neurons to talk to each other more easily), and reduce the accumulation of neuropathological proteins (those implicated in diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, etc.).
But Beyond All That…
We’ve only just begun to explore the universe of polyphenols, and the potential benefits for mankind appear boundless.
The right kinds and amounts of polyphenols may someday give us the supposedly mythical “exercise in a pill” that modern-day nutritional alchemists have been searching for. Polyphenols might end up curing innumerable diseases. They may extend not just life span but “health span,” where men and women age but retain the vigor, strength, and mobility of youth.
But getting all this from a single polyphenolic supplement, no matter how evolved it is, is unlikely to happen. This supplement would need help from you.
So Superfood and Balance of Nature Contain All the Polyphenols Needed for Health?
You know that game people play where you name the three things you’d take with you if you were banished to a desert island for a year? Well, one of the three things I’d take, in addition to the book, “Buehler’s Backyard Boatbuilding” and a pocket vagina, would be Superfood.
Even so, I don’t think Superfood supplies all the polyphenols one needs for ultimate health, no more than a particular antibiotic kills all bacteria, or a velvet dog hoodie fits all sizes and breeds of dogs. How could it? As I mentioned, there are currently about 8,000 polyphenols identified.
The thing to remember is that there are other categories of plant-based foods other than fruits and vegetables, all of them rich in polyphenols that may be unique to their “species.”
I’ve done my homework and grouped these plant-based foods into seven different categories:
Here they are, along with some representative members:
- 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, quinoa, chestnuts, hazelnuts.
- Fats: Extra virgin olive oil, sesame seed oil, dark chocolate (cacao).
- 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.
So How Does TC, Who’s Seemingly Now Referring to Himself in the 3rd Person, Address His Polyphenol Needs?
My personal polyphenol diet might seem like a lot of work, but I offer it only in the hopes that you might get some ideas about how to add more polyphenols into your diet.
I’d find it virtually impossible to fulfill my ambitious daily polyphenolic goals without incorporating at least one or two shakes, aka “smoothies” (Gawd, I hate that term).
Following is a typical morning shake. It incorporates 6 out of 7 of the polyphenol categories I listed above (all that’s missing is a representative of the spice family).
- 8 ounces oat milk (give or take)
- 1 scoop Superfood
- 1 small handful of chopped walnuts
- 1 tablespoon flaxseed
- 2 tablespoons white beans (yeah, you read that right. Their taste is bland, though)
- 1 handful of mixed berries
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin (also bland)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
And two essential but non-polyphenolic ingredients:
- 1-2 scoops of Metabolic Drive® Protein powder
- 5 grams of creatine
In addition to that, I also mix up 1 tablespoon of cacao (a more “raw” and unprocessed form of cocoa) into my coffee. In addition to providing polyphenols, it enhances coffee’s nootropic effects.
I work out at 9 AM, and I eat a small microwaved “brunch” afterwards consisting of the following:
- 1 handful of raw, shredded spinach
- 1/2 can of black or white beans (alternately, a cup of pre-cooked quinoa)
- 1 can skipjack tuna (lower mercury than other types)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Several shakes of Bragg Organic Sprinkle (24 herbs and spices)
- 1 teaspoon of hot sauce (usually my homemade Szechuan sauce)
Again, I’ve managed to round up quite a few polyphenolic groups, especially with the help of Bragg Organic Sprinkle.
This meal’s not as ambitious:
- 8 ounces oat milk
- 1 banana
- 1-2 scoops Metabolic Drive Protein Powder
And occasionally, a few spinach leaves (they don’t affect the taste).
This meal is essentially just a hodgepodge of up to 10 different fruits and vegetables that I prepare in a Black and Decker vegetable steamer. Here are the everyday players, but I may add whatever else is lying around in the crisper:
- Sweet potato
- Purple sweet potato
- Mixed leaves (spinach, kale, chard)
- Broccoflower (hybrid between broccoli and cauliflower)
After it’s steamed to my liking, I top if off with olive oil, Bragg seasoning, and again, some type of hot sauce and serve with a great-white shark-sized hunk of meat or fish.
In addition to all this, I also incorporate polyphenol supplements like:
- Micellar Curcumin®
- Rez-V™ (resveratrol)
That’s it. That’s my polyphenolic day, not for the faint of heart. I didn’t bother to include the other supplements I use because none of them are, or include, polyphenols. Neither did I list the various food variations I use to ensure nutritional balance. It’s just a template.
Regardless, it’s not my intention to get you to eat exactly this way. After all, who knows? I may still wake up dead tomorrow. However, to the best of my knowledge – and I’m getting more and more backing from the scientific community on this every day – we should strive boldly forth to get as balanced and hopefully complete an array of polyphenols into our diets every day.
However, don’t be boondoggled into thinking that eating this way, or even less remotely, taking Balance of Nature or even Superfood, is going to change your life overnight unless you were horribly undernourished in the first place.
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