Polyphenols: What Are They?

As mentioned in my last post about brain health, polyphenols are brightly colored antioxidants found in plants we consume like blueberries, raspberries, green tea, red cabbage, coffee, dark chocolate, and many spices. These plant compounds (about 8,000 of them) help to fight aging and inflammation in the body. Eating a wide variety of polyphenols is key in order to support your heart, gut, and brain, among other things. So “eating the rainbow” is not a “if I find the time” kind of option. 

When you are eating an array of polyphenols every day, it can benefit your health on many levels. Of course, knowing that we are all unique individuals with specific requirements and sensitivities, you should always see which foods work better for you and buy accordingly.

Polyphenols Health Benefits

Consuming many types of vegetables and fruits, ideally organic and/or local, can be very rewarding. Eating delicious colorful meals every day is uplifting and beneficial in more than one way. Here are the main health benefits polyphenols are known for:

  • Whole-body health: Polyphenols like curcumin can help tamping down pain and inflammation. They help to deal with the effects of free radicals (unstable molecules that create stress and aging in the body) and aid with decreasing inflammation.
  • Heart health: High polyphenol intake helps lessen the risk of cardiovascular disease, with a lower LDL and higher HDL and it possibly lowers blood pressure too.
  • Metabolic health: High polyphenol intake may help decrease blood sugar spikes and better insulin sensitivity, so this lessens type 2 diabetes risk.
  • Gut health: Polyphenol-rich plants like green tea can help feed the good bacteria in the gut, polyphenols being in this case “a super-charged prebiotic.”
  • Brain health: As mentioned in my previous post, polyphenols help shield the brain from stress and free radical damage while aiding with bettering learning and memory. When it comes to slowing down brain aging, along with several other strategies, unprocessed polyphenol-rich foods help maintain high BDNF levels.

Examples of Polyphenol-Rich Foods

Here’s a short list of polyphenol-rich foods. Some plants contain more polys than others. Start with your favorites and maybe add a few more progressively. The more variety, the better.

How many of these are you already consuming regularly? 

Until next time!

References

Lipman, Dr Frank. “6 Ways Polyphenols Will Make Your Health Soar.” Frank Lipman

MD,10Jan.2022,MD,drfranklipman.com/2022/01/10/6-ways-polyphenols-will-make-your-

health-soar/. Accessed 12 Mar. 2022.

“Polyphenols: What They Are, Why They Work, & How to Eat More of Them.” Dave 

Asprey, 23 Apr. 2019, daveasprey.com/polyphenols-220419/. Accessed 12 Mar. 2022.

You can also find me on Instagram.

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A Warm Spice Not to Skip

Not only do spices improve any dish with delightful aromas and colors, but they also contain a host of health benefits. Cinnamon, one of the oldest spices in the world, is one of them. Obtained from the bark of the cinnamon tree, it is full of nutrients like fiber, manganese, and calcium. It offers many health benefits with its high antioxidant levels. The two main varieties are Ceylon and cassia. With its sweet, warming taste, cinnamon is a wonderful spice to use during the holidays!

The Main Health Benefits of Cinnamon

  • Helps reduce inflammation: cinnamon is full of protective antioxidants, including polyphenols, phenolic acid, and flavonoids, that help lessen free radical damage and combat oxidative stress in the body. These antioxidants can also help reduce inflammation, which may aid in the prevention of chronic disease. Cinnamon is even considered a potential cancer-fighting food.
  • Aids with maintaining heart health: cinnamon can help lessen high cholesterol levels, high triglyceride levels, and high blood pressure. Furthermore, it can be a beneficial blood coagulant and also better circulation and tissue repair.
  • Helps balance blood sugar: cinnamon aids with decreasing blood sugar levels and helps better insulin sensitivity. It can also be a great sugar substitute to sweeten desserts without adding many calories.
  • Aids with conserving brain function: due to its numerous antioxidants, cinnamon may improve cognitive function while helping protect the brain against different neurological disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Can help fight infections: cinnamon has natural antimicrobial, antibiotic, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Its essential oils may help boost the immune system too.
  • Can aid with improving oral hygiene: cinnamon (and its essential oils) has powerful antibacterial properties and so it may help with bad breath, tooth decay, cavities, and mouth infections.

On a Final Note

If you are not adding cinnamon yet to your favorite dishes, experiment blending it into your coffee, tea, paleo-friendly baked goods, yogurt, smoothies, or any recipe of your liking. As with almost everything, consume cinnamon in moderation – high doses can potentially lead to unwanted symptoms. 

Enjoy the holidays and sprinkle some cinnamon here and there to your heart’s content!

Have a Merry Christmas!

References

“Cinnamon Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts and Side Effects – Dr. Axe.” Dr. Axe, Sept. 2018, http://www.draxe.com/nutrition/health-benefits-cinnamon/. Accessed 21 Dec. 2021.

“Health Benefits of Cinnamon.” Mark’s Daily Apple, 21 Sept. 2020, http://www.marksdailyapple.com/health-benefits-cinnamon/. Accessed 21 Dec. 2021.

You can also find me on Instagram.

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Dark Chocolate

Did you know that the Latin name for chocolate, Theobroma Cacao, means “Food of the Gods?” While some types of chocolate offer many health benefits with their antioxidants, including flavonoids and polyphenols, it is important to note that most processed, highly sweetened chocolates are not beneficial. If you switch (just like I did when I started eating Paleo) from consuming milk chocolate and white chocolate to at least 75% dark chocolate, you will most likely reap many of the benefits that chocolate has to offer. The health benefits of this high-fiber food are impressive. Check this out!

Defense Against Disease-Causing Free Radicals

The antioxidants in high-cacao content chocolate are believed to help against free radicals (those harmful compounds generated by cellular processes in the body). Those antioxidants, including flavonoids and polyphenols, are helping against inflammation and disease. Chocolate may even be a possible cancer-fighting food.

Enhanced Heart Health

Flavanols (a type of flavonoids) in chocolate help with heart health by lowering blood pressure, boosting blood flow to the heart and brain, and possibly preventing blood platelets from clotting (lessening the risk of stroke).

Helps With Overall Cholesterol Profile

With its healthy fats and polyphenols, the cocoa butter in chocolate helps with bettering lipid profiles, lessening platelet reactivity, and lowering inflammation.

Improved Cognitive Function 

Flavonoid-rich foods like dark chocolate can help with improved brain function and enhanced cognitive performance by boosting blood flow to the brain. Dark chocolate is also a possible vision booster.

Antioxidant-Rich Superfood

It has been shown that dark chocolate’s antioxidant capacity and total polyphenol content are superior to those of all superfruit juices, except for pomegranates.

Beneficial to Skin Health

Due to its flavanol content, dark chocolate can help protect against sun damage, lessen skin roughness, boost hydration, and enhance blood flow to the skin.

Did you get your square of dark chocolate today? 

Until next time!

Reference

Annie Price, CHHC. “9 Awesome Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate.” Dr. Axe, 28 Nov. 2019, draxe.com/nutrition/benefits-of-dark-chocolate/. Accessed 20 June 2021.

You can also find me on Instagram.

Eating in Season

Given that we are still a good month away from Spring, if you haven’t looked into it yet, they are some awesome winter vegetables that you can include in a variety of delicious recipes. If you eat in season, you usually get fresher produce that can offer more beneficial nutrients. Eating in season is also a nice way to support local farmers and help the environment. Most winter vegetables grow from November through March. What follows is a list of 9 awesome winter vegetables, so yummy in those fall/winter comfort food recipes.

9 Awesome Winter Vegetables

  • Beets: they offer fiber, folate, manganese, potassium, iron, and vitamin C. They also contain nitrates, which help with blood flow and blood pressure.
  • Broccoli: it contains antioxidants like carotenoids, chlorophyll, vitamins E and K, essential minerals, and it is also high in fiber and cancer-fighting compounds such as glucosinolates.
  • Brussels Sprouts: they offer a wide variety of antioxidants (that can be good against cancer too), fiber, calcium, potassium, folate, vitamins C and K.
  • Cabbage: all types of cabbage contain a high amount of fiber, vitamins C and K, manganese, and antioxidants like anthocyanins.  As mentioned in a previous post, anthocyanins can help with heart disease, among other things.
  • Carrots: they offer beta-carotene (vitamin A), helping with eye health and skin health. They have numerous antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin (that can help with healthy aging), plus vitamin K, potassium, vitamins B1 and B3, and fiber.
  • Cauliflower: it is packed with essential vitamins, carotenoids, fiber, soluble sugars, folate, potassium, and several antioxidants that can help lessen oxidative stress.
  • Escarole: one of the many dark greens that offers fiber, vitamins C, A, and K, calcium, plus iron. It contains antioxidants and polyphenols, helping with aging.
  • Kale: it is high in flavonoid antioxidants like quercetin, and vitamins A, C, and K, B vitamins, calcium, copper, manganese, potassium, plus magnesium.
  • Winter Squash: just like sweet potatoes, it is high in vitamin A (alpha-carotene and beta-carotene), vitamins C and B6, magnesium, fiber, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.

In Summary

After gathering a few of these nutritious vegetables (organic whenever possible), the choice is yours: you can simply roast them, make a vegetable soup or stew, saute some greens with garlic, or add some cut-up roasted veggies to a frittata or to a leafy green winter salad. What will you try first?

Until next time!

References

Cowan, M.D., Thomas. How (& Why) to Eat More Vegetables. Library of Congress No. 2016934925, 2016, p. 25.

Levy, Jillian. “Top 12 Winter Vegetables to Eat & Grow.” Dr. Axe, 12 Jan. 2021, draxe.com/nutrition/winter-vegetables/. Accessed 13 Feb. 2021.

You can also find me on Instagram.

Meaning of “Eating the rainbow”

To eat the rainbow refers to making sure we eat a variety of vegetables and fruits of different colors on a daily basis. Those various colors are the product of chemicals which are held within each fruit or vegetable. They give us an array of nutrients with high antioxidant values. So each day, we want to provide our bodies with a “rainbow” of micronutrients!

Red, blue, and purple vegetables and fruits

In How (& Why) to Eat More Vegetables, Dr. Thomas Cowan explains that “Red, blue and purple plants contain in abundance chemicals called anthocyanins, which have been shown to decrease heart disease, prevent strokes, prevent macular degeneration and improve memory. Preliminary work also suggests they help regulate cell division in mammalian cells and thus may be effective as a cancer medicine or in prevention.” So it is important, each day, to consume a few blueberries, tomatoes, pomegranates, peppers, eggplants, or tree collards, for instance. I regularly enjoy putting a cup of mixed berries in my smoothies, blended with almond milk, a scoop of collagen protein, and a few other healthy powders.

Green vegetables

In the book mentioned above, Dr. Thomas Cowan further explains that when it comes to the chlorophyll in green vegetables, the “[i]ngested chlorophyll has many roles in mammals; it serves as a primary detoxifier of our tissues, it prevents cancer, improves vision and is usually found in plants with abundant vitamin C and folate, both crucial for cellular health and overall disease prevention.” We can easily find a great number of green vegetables. So benefiting daily from what chlorophyll offers in abundance (the greener the plant) is a sure way to sustain our health and wellness goals. I eat salads almost every day. And I Iove using some of Dr. Cowan’s Garden powders in order to have a greater variety of plants in my diet. These powders are very helpful, especially in winter. Do not forget to add herbs to your daily dishes too! And consuming algae (like chlorella and spirulina) when you can is a plus!

Orange and yellow vegetables and fruits

Still according to Dr. Thomas Cowan, “Orange and yellow colors mean that the various carotenoids are present…. Carotenoids participate in the health of the immune system, are needed for vision maintenance, decrease heart disease and help in cancer.” So eating carrots, beets, winter squash or pumpkins, for instance, is one way to tap into this category of nutrients. I also like to regularly consume sweet potatoes.

White plants

When it comes to white plants, Dr. Thomas Cowan states that they “contain chemicals called polyphenols, including a chemical called anthoxanthin. Anthoxanthin was found to decrease blood pressure, decrease cancer risk and prevent strokes. White plants usually have abundant levels of potassium, vitamin C, folate and other B vitamins.” Incorporating white plants to your dishes can easily be done by simply opting for onions and garlic. Onions and garlic are alliums, along with shallots, all great for cooking. If you want to read more about garlic, you can check my blog post, Why Herbs and Spices are a Must. Also in the white plant category, zucchinis and white asparagus are great picks!

In summary

As we can see, “eating the rainbow” is, indeed, important. Even with a busy schedule, eating the rainbow is fairly easy to do on a daily basis. We can plan ahead for the week, of course. Or we can simply make sure that vegetables of each category are on-hand at all times. I say vegetables because, as mentioned by Dr. Catherine Shanahan in Food Rules, “Your vegetable-to-fruit purchase ratio should be five to one.”  A lot of fruits contain quite a bit of sugar and should be considered as occasional treats only. But then again, we are all different individuals. By checking your blood sugar regularly, as suggested in my blog post Which Healthy Sugar Substitutes Can We Buy, you will be able to tell which foods work for you. And the produce you get should be mostly organic, as explained in What to Buy Organic. Red, blue, purple, green, orange, yellow, and white plants, when picked wisely, have some amazing powers to help us feel our best!

References

Calton, PhD, Jayson, and Mira Calton, CN. The Micronutrient Miracle. New York, Rodale, 2015, p. 207.

Cowan, M.D., Thomas. How (& Why) to Eat More Vegetables. Library of Congress No. 2016934925, 2016, pp. 24–26.

Shanahan, MD, Catherine. Food Rules : A Doctor’s Guide to Healthy Eating. Bedford, Nh, Big Box Books, 2010, p. 32.

You can also find me on Instagram.