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Polyphenols in Diet

Sheilah Fulton
Plant Science
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By Dr.Rao Adeel

Polyphenols are a group of enzymes and chemical compounds that are naturally plant-based, consisting of hundreds of different types, and have been thought to be highly beneficial to your health. If taken regularly, they offer plenty of health benefits, ranging from anti-inflammatory effects, cardiovascular disease prevention, to regulating your metabolic system as well as preventing certain types of cancers to develop. Since polyphenols are naturally occurring phytochemicals, they are exclusively present in green vegetables and fruits. However, certain herbs, spices, dark chocolate, and even wine also contain this compound in abundance. Also, whole grains, nuts, and legumes are also considered to be the source of these phytochemicals. Various health benefits of polyphenols There has been a ton of research on the health benefits of these plant-based phytochemicals, and the results are quite promising and have been linked to its anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular, anticancer and antioxidant properties.

Polyphenols as antioxidants
They have been well-researched on their strong antioxidant properties, which shows that polyphenols, when consumed regularly, can effectively prevent our body from oxidative stress. The question may be raising in your mind that what is oxidative stress? Well,oxidative stress is the resultant action of your immune system against the free radicals
formed in the body as a result of any type of insult, such as infection or an excessive exercise. A good example is the oxidation of LDL ( low density lipoproteins ) or in other words bad cholesterol. After it is oxidised, it sticks to the coronary arteries, causing heart disease. Therefore, it is quite obvious that antioxidant properties of polyphenols not only protect our body from free radicals’ overall damage, but also prevent the heart disease
from occurring.

Anti-cancer properties of polyphenols
Epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG is an enzyme in the body which is strongly associated in the process of certain types of cancer formation. Polyphenols have the capability of deactivating this enzyme, preventing you effectively against the cancer forming process. Polyphenols have also been strongly associated with their abilities in blocking different kinds of enzyme reactions which cancers essentially need for their growth promotion.

Protective against cardiovascular disease
A research conducted on the relationship between polyphenols and body cholesterols found out that these compounds are not only effective in the reduction of LDL ( low density lipoproteins) or bad cholesterols, but also can significantly increase HDL ( high density lipoproteins) or good cholesterols. Interestingly, HDL’s are considered to be naturally protective against coronary artery disease. In addition, its antioxidant properties
play an important role against chronic inflammation, which is one of the markers of developing heart disease. This is how its two-fold action is incredibly cardioprotective.

Effects on gut microbiome
Polyphenols have a positive phenomenon on your gut health and the mechanism to this is quite intricate . Our intestines are the home to good and bad bacteria which normally maintain a good balance among them. Once this balance is disturbed, for example by consuming unhealthy foods regularly or an excessive use of antibiotics, intestinal problems
start to develop, leading you to have poor gut-health. Surprisingly, vegetables and fruits containing polyphenols, if regularly eaten, have a strong ability in knocking-off bag bugs or bacteria and also help in maintaining a positive balance between the two. It is worth mentioning that this balance is essential for the gut in fighting against the common
intestinal infections such as caused by salmonella, campylobacter jejuni, and Eschericia Coli, which are common bacteria in causing intestinal infections.

Positive Effects on Insulin & Glucose Metabolism: Polyphenols
A rich plant-based diets are capable of increasing insulin sensitivity and lowering your blood sugar levels significantly, shown by research carried out on the polyphenols and their effects on insulin and glucose metabolism. Firstly, these compounds prevent the starch in the food from breaking down into small glucose molecules, preventing the sugar levels from spiking up.

Secondly, it also has a strong stimulus on the pancreas to increase
insulin secretion. Insulin’s main action is to carry blood glucose molecules to the target tissues. This means that polyphenols have a strong influence on the metabolism of blood glucose levels by two mechanisms of action described above. Therefore, regular consumption of polyphenols containing foods can strongly protect you from the risk of developing diabetes mellitus and other chronic health illnesses.
A plant based diet is rich in polyphenols which play a crucial role in maintaining a good balance between your health and metabolism. From this perspective,as a result, you are naturally protected against a number of serious health conditions which have been discussed above in detail. It is therefore very important for us to develop a habit of eating plant-based foods and a variety of fruits, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains which are usually rich in polyphenols so that we keep on growing healthier each day.