Polyphenols Facts – What They Are & Where to Get Them

Polyphenols Facts
Dr. Lindsey Mcilvena, MD

In her day job, treating patients living with chronic disease, nutrition and lifestyle are not after-thoughts, they’re central to helping her patients get well. She’s also our go-to expert on plant-based diets.

What are polyphenols and why do we need them? First, a quick refresher course in molecular biology — Game of Thrones style.

You’ve probably heard lots and lots about free radicals and antioxidants in the last few years; they’re big buzz words. Free radicals are like the white walkers of the body-realm, they’re rogue zombies hell-bent on destroying anyone and anything in their path on the climb toward world domination. Our DNA is the high-born royalty, vastly important, though truly fragile, and susceptible to the blue-eyed free radical zombies. This is where the antioxidants come in; they are the night’s watch of the realm, guarding against the white walkers. Get it?

There are many different types of antioxidants: lutein, vitamins and minerals, and yep, polyphenols. But polyphenols are not just one specific compound, they are actually a whole class of beneficial phytochemicals including flavonoids, phenolic acids, stilbenes, and lignans. These groups in turn can be broken down into more specific antioxidant-polyphenols. Here we’re talking about polyphenols in general, and boy are they good for you.  Not only are polyphenols antioxidant powerhouses, but they are also antibacterial, promote strength in our blood vessels, can thin our blood in a good way and, no surprise here, are anti-inflammatory.

We know that they are good for us, but as of right now, we don’t know what the optimal daily consumption is—it looks like the more the better.

So, where can we find them to ensure we’re getting these health-boosting compounds in our diet? You’re in luck, they’re seemingly everywhere. You can find them in green tea, blueberries and other berries, blood oranges, dark chocolate,  red wine, kiwi, coffee, rhubarb, eggplant, artichokes, cherries, leeks, celery, parsley, sweet peppers, apples, and tomatoes.

What do you know? The original 24 SuperFoods are just teaming with polyphenols. Happy eating.

Sources: NIH, The American Journal of Critical Nutrition, University of Maryland Medical Center

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