We’ve all been told that antioxidants are good for us and to eat our vegetables. But what does this mean? What is an antioxidant, where do we find them and what are they doing for us?
Let’s start at the very beginning.
An antioxidant helps prevent cell damage. It inhibits the oxidation of a molecule which can produce free radicals and other pollutants in the body that break down cells.
Polyphenols are a group of 500 phytochemical and are only some of the antioxidants that exist. However, this is the #1 type of antioxidant found in the human diet.
While studies are still being made to understand what exactly polyphenols do for the body and how they protect us against disease, this much we know; polyphenols can help prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and have been suggested to help in preventing neurodegenerative diseases as well diabetes mellitus. Most of this is because polyphenols help with anti-inflammation, and all of these diseases fall under inflammation - Polyphenols are helping with you cell damage which increases with signs of inflammation.
There are three main types of polyphenols associated with increasing your health:
- Phenolic Acid - found in the seeds and skins of fruits and vegetables, Phenolic acid is most notable for it anti-inflammatory properties like all polyphenols. One form of Phenolic Acid, Gallic-Acid, has been known to be a good antihistamine and reduce inflammation from allergies. Capsaicin, another type of Phenolic Acid has been known to reduce the LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in the blood. Overall, Phenolic acid is also beneficial for treating skin conditions and increase the immune system.
- Flavonoids - This polyphenol is responsible for the color pigment in fruits and vegetables. They help with protecting the skin, regulating blood sugar and blood pressure, the function of the brain and decreasing inflammation.
- Lignans - Heavily found in linseed and flaxseed, you can also find it in grains, fruit, and vegetables. However, Linseed has almost 1,000x as much Lignans. Lignans are food for intestinal bacteria. Lignans act as an estrogen-like substance and are thought to help in breast cancer and ovarian, but scientists are still learning if this is true or not.
Overdosing by a natural diet is unheard of when it comes to Polyphenols, however, when taking a supplement it has been documented that too many polyphenols can cause kidney damage and tumor development. Be sure to talk to a doctor when looking into adding supplements to your diet.
If you’re looking to add more polyphenols to your diet, here are the foods with the highest amount of polyphenols
- Star anise
- Cocoa Powder
- Mexican oregano
- Celery seed (a wonderful tea)
- Black Chokeberry
- Dark Chocolate
- Flaxseed meal (body can’t digest full flaxseed)
- Black Elderberry