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What Are the Benefits of Polyphenols in Food?

B. Miller
B. Miller

Researchers are still determining the benefits of polyphenols in food. Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant that are found in many different types of fresh fruits and vegetables, and in many different iterations. As a result, it is difficult to determine which specific polyphenols are having an effect on the body, but researchers generally agree that they are beneficial to consume. The most often cited benefits of polyphenols in food are their abilities to reduce inflammation, eliminate free radicals in the blood, and potentially protect against nerve damage, which may help to prevent ALzheimer's disease later in life.

As a general rule, the more colorful the fruit or vegetable, the more polyphenols and other antioxidants it contains. Pomegranates and red grapes, for example, are often noted as being very high in polyphenols, which may be found in red wines as well. They may also be found in high concentrations in certain teas and olive oil. Colorful vegetables are a source of many other beneficial nutrients too, and it is a good idea to make them part of a regular diet regardless of whether or not they are high in polyphenols, because they are all high in antioxidants.

Kalamata olives, which contain polyphenols.
Kalamata olives, which contain polyphenols.

The benefits of antioxidants and polyphenols in food may be numerous. Initially, they help to reduce inflammatory effects in the body, which may help to prevent heart disease that can occur when arteries become inflamed due to cholesterol in the food. Polyphenols may also help to eliminate free radicals in the blood, which are known to cause cell mutations and potentially cancer. Another one of the benefits of polyphenols in food is their ability to protect against nerve damage, which may help to prevent Alzheimer's disease later in life. Scientists are unsure of the amount of polyphenols that need to be consumed in order to get these benefits, however.

Olive oil has a high amount of polyphenols.
Olive oil has a high amount of polyphenols.

It is important to remember that while beneficial, polyphenols in food are not miracle cures, and are not a substitute for a healthy diet. They can supplement and enhance a balanced and nutritious diet that contains enough daily servings of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. In addition, keep in mind that many of the benefits mentioned above, such as reducing the body's inflammatory response and protecting against nerve damage, are enhanced by regular exercise as well. It is a great idea to seek out polyphenols in food, but don't neglect other healthy activities as well.

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    • Kalamata olives, which contain polyphenols.
      Kalamata olives, which contain polyphenols.
    • Olive oil has a high amount of polyphenols.
      By: Luis Carlos Jiménez
      Olive oil has a high amount of polyphenols.
    • Pomegranates are high in polyphenols, which may help eliminate free radicals from the bloodstream.
      By: kaetana
      Pomegranates are high in polyphenols, which may help eliminate free radicals from the bloodstream.
    • Many red wines are high in polyphenols, which are said to help prevent heart disease.
      By: BlueSkyImages
      Many red wines are high in polyphenols, which are said to help prevent heart disease.