Your Guide to Polyphenols for a Healthy Heart & Gut
Polyphenols are emerging in the performance world as potent anti-inflammatories that can enhance the natural processes of recovery, healing, performance, and may be linked with lower risk of inflammatory diseases. In this article, I’ll cover the sources, potential benefits, and any downsides of natural plant-based polyphenols:
- What Are Polyphenols?
- What Are The Benefits of Polyphenols?
- Can polyphenols help you lose weight?
- Which Foods Are Highest In Polyphenols?
- How Many Polyphenols Do I Need Per Day?
- Can You Eat Too Many Polyphenols?
- Should You Supplement With Polyphenols?
What Are Polyphenols?
Polyphenols are a class of natural plant-based antioxidants. Due to their chemical structure, polyphenols are some of the most potent anti-inflammatory antioxidants found in nature.
Polyphenols fall under the broad class of phytochemicals called phenolic acids. Specific types of polyphenols include:
The Science Behind Polyphenols
The reason why you need polyphenols has to do with their systemic antioxidant function. Their multi-ringed chemical structure makes them extraordinarily effective at trapping and neutralizing damaging free-radicals. Fewer free-radicals means less oxidative stress and less inflammation, which leads to better health overall and reduced risk of chronic diseases.
Another, even more powerful, role of polyphenols lies in their ability to alter the way your genetics are expressed. Each specific polyphenol is different, but they all share an ability to ramp up anti-inflammatory pathways at the source: your genetic code. Polyphenols can send a signal to your cells to start making anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and detoxification proteins.
Take the golden spice for example: turmeric is not a polyphenol itself, but contains one of the single most powerful polyphenols, curcumin, alongside dozens of others. The research shows that even though curcumin may be the workhorse of the group ー largely responsible for turmeric’s cancer-fighting, heart-healthy, and gut-promoting effects ー its effect synergizes with the other polyphenols in turmeric. That means that the combined anti-inflammatory effect is even larger than what you would see by adding up all the individual polyphenols.
The biochemistry of polyphenols is complex, but the effects are simple: better health.
Are Polyphenols Good Or Bad?
The benefits of some polyphenols aren’t clear-cut: their effect depends on the dose. Take tannins for example, which you can taste in the bitter husk of a peanut, the astringent peel of a fruit, or the mouth-puckering flavor of dry red wine.
In high doses, tannins can have anti-nutrient effects like reducing mineral absorption and they can stress your liver and kidney’s detoxification pathways. Low levels, on the other hand, send a signal to these detox systems to ramp up detoxification pathways in excess of what’s necessary to get rid of the outside chemical. This effect, called “hormesis”, means that low doses of these types of polyphenols actually have significant positive effects, even though high doses are considered toxic.
Generally speaking, whether polyphenols are anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory depends on the dose. Polyphenols in food-level doses are safe, nontoxic, and regarded as good for your health.
What Are The Benefits of Polyphenols?
The most significant benefit of polyphenols is their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory function. All polyphenols are antioxidants by definition, and so all polyphenols have some degree of anti-inflammatory action.
More and more research has pointed to inflammation as the unifying link between almost all chronic diseases. Targeting inflammation isn’t necessarily going to stop disease ー after all, you do need manageable levels of controlled inflammation to survive ー but the list of why you should eat polyphenols continues to grow:
Here’s a list of what polyphenols are good for:
- Promoting gut health by feeding healthy gut bacteria and fighting cancer-causing inflammation
- Reducing the dark spots associated with aging and sun-damaged skin, when applied as a cream or when taken as a supplement
- Reducing markers of heart disease, like blood pressure and cholesterol
- Reducing high blood sugar and promoting healthy insulin signalling
- Preventing cancer (this is one of the strongest associations)
- Promoting brain health into old age
- Performance enhancement, including endurance, strength, and recovery
Can polyphenols help you lose weight?
Polyphenols don’t directly cause you to lose weight, but they can help indirectly:
- Foods high in polyphenols are also high in fiber, which can promote healthy gut bacteria and can help you feel full on fewer calories
- Some sources of particularly bitter polyphenols (eg. baker’s chocolate, dandelion greens), can make overeating difficult. Additionally, a side effect of supplemental green tea extract is reduced calorie consumption, in animal studies at least.
- It’s possible, but not yet confirmed in research, that some polyphenols can inactivate digestive enzymes. This hypothetically causes you to absorb fewer calories, but may also cause pain, discomfort, and diarrhea.
- Polyphenols can promote your health, and when you feel healthier it’s easier to do the things that you want to do.
Which Foods Are Highest In Polyphenols?
With so many benefits, you probably want to know what you can eat to get the most for your money. Foods high in polyphenols are commonly called superfoods. The most concentrated sources of polyphenols are some of the healthiest foods on the planet:
- Spices and functional foods like turmeric and ginger
- Green tea, particularly matcha
- Unfiltered wine and craft beer
- Black coffee
- Extra virgin oils - particularly “strong”, polyphenol-rich olive oil
- Dark chocolate, cocoa, and baker’s chocolate
- Berries, with aronia berries (aka. chokeberry), elderberries, wild blueberries, and goji berries at the top
- Nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes that have a husk or peel (that’s where the majority of the polyphenols are)
If you want to increase your polyphenol intake, I have the perfect resource for you. My ebook “Recover Every Layer of Your Body” harnesses the science of polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals in recipe after delicious recipe that will take your health to the next level.
My team analyzed hundreds of research articles to bring you the most effective strategies for promoting your recovery, sleep, and healing processes. You’ll find easy recipes that explain the science of polyphenols clearly so that you can close the gap between tired and ready to go.
If you’re curious about how to apply the science of polyphenols to improving your everyday life, there is no better resource than this book!
How Many Polyphenols Do I Need Per Day?
Unlike other nutrients, there is no official recommended daily intake for polyphenols. The USDA recommends five servings of fruits and vegetables per day for optimal health, so the average level of polyphenols could be taken as an estimated baseline level.
From this perspective, one researcher estimates that a typical healthy diet provides 1000 milligrams or more polyphenols from food in a day ー that could be a reasonable target to shoot for.
Polyphenols often come from what you drink too. Another researcher estimated that Americans get an additional 1000 mg of polyphenols per day just from coffee, tea, and wine!
Specific polyphenols do specific things though, so it might be better to break down the number of polyphenols you need in a day into categories supported by research: blueberry polyphenols for cognitive benefits, green tea polyphenols for skin health and gut health, cocoa (chocolate) polyphenols for heart health, fruit polyphenols for exercise performance… the list goes on. Eat some of these foods on a regular basis and you’re setting yourself up for long-term health!
Can You Eat Too Many Polyphenols?
Too many polyphenols is possible. Some polyphenols like tannins work as anti-nutrients at high doses, even though they’re powerful anti-inflammatories at normal doses.
The best study to look at overdose-levels of polyphenols showed that 200 mg of green tea polyphenols per 1 kg of body weight per day resulted in weight loss, elevated markers of liver damage, organ dysfunction, and other adverse effects in dogs.
To put that into perspective, 200mg/kg/day for an average 175-pound person would be the equivalent of 16,000 mg of polyphenols per day. That’s eight times what you would typically get from a healthy diet. Unless you’re eating the pit of your avocado or taking high-dose supplements, it’s unlikely to eat that high of a level of polyphenols.
Should You Supplement With Polyphenols?
Although supplementing with polyphenols could be beneficial, excessive supplementation with anything will result in negative effects.
Start by getting your polyphenols from whole foods. The list of polyphenol-rich superfoods above should get you started. Just drinking green tea or eating extra dark chocolate can give you a big polyphenol boost; eating fruit and vegetables everyday will make sure you’re consistently getting a range of benefits.
Doses used in research studies are in the 200-400mg range, which suggests that even for the performance and recovery enhancing benefits, you don’t need to go overboard.
If you feel like you would benefit from supplemental polyphenols, talk with your healthcare provider, and choose natural supplements derived from full-spectrum extracts of whole foods. Aim to get more polyphenol antioxidants from food sources and then consider lower levels in your supplements until you can determine how they make you feel.
Resync Is A Source For Polyphenol Antioxidants
Resync products contain powerful antioxidant polyphenols. The newest drink to join our line ー Resync Beverage ー contains 200 mg of phenolic antioxidants from high-quality ingredients in every can of this one-of-a-kind drink. Vitamin C, beta-glucan, inulin, and aronia berry extract, red beetroot extract, red spinach extract add some powerful benefits for your energy, immune system, gut health, and heart health. These ingredients are meant to work together to enhance blood-flow, promote energy and recovery, and fight oxidation with antioxidants, including polyphenols.
Aronia berries are the star of the show. Getting their nickname “chokeberry” for their astringent taste, eaten raw, their mouth-puckering flavor may take some time to get used to. Fortunately that strong flavor indicates that they are a potent source of polyphenol antioxidants.
Compared to every other superfood out there, aronia berry has the most powerful antioxidant capacity of any natural food, it is a dense source of phenolic compounds with an extremely high content of anti-inflammatory anthocyanins and a rich source of vitamin C and natural nitrates as well. Aronia is the superfood of superfoods. Aronia has been studied to:
- Aid nitric oxide synthesis and may potentially lower blood pressure, support smooth muscle (like your gut), and increase energy and performance in endurance activities
- Help regulate the neuroinflammatory processes associated with exercise.
- Support heart, blood, and cardiometabolic health (ie lower cholesterol and triglycerides)
- Have promising effects on inflammation in athletes
- Regulate the gut microbiome in a positive way, and more!
Resync Beverage is a delicious source of antioxidants, natural nitrates, and fiber making it a nutritional powerhouse that will serve your health like no other sparkling beverage.
Don’t get left behind in the biggest beverage revolution in the 21st century: Resync Beverage is the science-backed refreshment for heart and immune health designed with you in mind. It’s the natural plant-based caffeine-free energy drink that you’ve been waiting for, get yours today!
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The Resync Team
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