Polyphenols are a group of chemicals with more than one phenol unit per molecule. These compounds are naturally found in many plants. The most commonly found plant polyphenols are, flavonoids, phenolic acid, catechins, anthocyanins, isoflavones, quercetin, and resveratrol. Many scientific studies and research have been conducted to evaluate the effects of these compounds on the human body. In fact, the potential health benefits of many vegetables and fruits are attributed to the presence of these compounds.
Fruits and vegetables along with tea, especially green tea, are some of the most important sources of these compounds. Among fruits, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, acai berries, and raspberries are the rich sources of these compounds. Other important sources of these phytonutrients are apples, pomegranates, cherries, grapes, pears, and plums. Among vegetables, cabbage, broccoli, onion, parsley, and celery are some of the good sources of different types of polyphenols. In addition to these, you can find a significant amount of these phytonutrients in red wine, coffee, tea, chocolate, olive oil, legumes, and nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, pecans, and peanuts.
Some of the important polyphenols, such as flavones, flavonoids, resveratrol, and isoflavones are known to possess antioxidant properties. They are also believed to have anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. The following are some of the most noteworthy benefits of these phytonutrients:
- Most of these compounds are antioxidants. So, they can help neutralize the highly reactive free radicals, and thereby protect the body cells and tissues.
- Free radicals are often blamed for causing cellular damage, which is associated with aging. Being powerful antioxidants, polyphenols can slow down the process of aging.
- They can also invigorate the immune system. A strong immune system is a must for keeping infections and diseases at bay.
- They can improve blood circulation and boost heart health, which can lower the risk of heart and cardiovascular diseases.
- The compound resveratrol has been found to exhibit anti-tumor activities. So, it may be able to inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors in the body.
- Some polyphenols found in raspberries have been observed to slow down the loss of bone density, and thus reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- The catechins found in green tea may help reduce weight. They can stimulate the body to burn more fats and calories.
- The isoflavones, found largely in soy and soy products, can help women cope with menopausal symptoms (especially hot flashes and bone loss).
Apart from these, these phytonutrients can have many other health benefits, which are yet to be discovered. The best way to derive their benefits is to include the food that contain these compounds in our diet. Their supplements are also available in the market, but these should be taken only after consulting a health care provider.