There is a ton of information out there about antioxidants. Whereas many health topics are here today and gone tomorrow antioxidants are here to stay.
There are three families of antioxidants. These are carotenoids, allyl sulfides, and polyphenols. Eating colorful foods is a good way of making sure you are eating enough polyphenols.
It isn’t a coincidence that a healthy diet looks like a rainbow of colors. (Leave the skittles on the shelf please!) Polyphenols are the chemicals that are responsible for giving many plants and vegetables their color, and just like other antioxidants, they pack a ton of benefits.
What is an antioxidant?
In order to understand how eating polyphenols can help you look and feel amazing, we have to know what antioxidants are and why they matter.
Without getting too deep into the science, when one of your body’s molecules loses an electron it’s called a free radical. When this happens it goes around to other molecules in the body and steals other electrons.
This process is called oxidation and it creates more free radicals.
We want to fight against this process of oxidation with antioxidants because free radicals can wreak havoc on the body and has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, diabetes, and atherosclerosis. Not to mention that having excess free radicals will speed up the aging process.
One category of antioxidants that it is important to get in your diet is polyphenols. These, in particular, have been deeply researched.
Benefits of eating polyphenols
While I recommend having all kinds of antioxidants in your diet there are some benefits to eating polyphenols that are particularly interesting above and beyond the antioxidant benefits.
For instance, in one study polyphenols have been linked to weight maintenance or even weight loss in a study of close to 125,000
Also, the research supports a link to lower levels of inflammation, increased bone health, and decreased risk of osteoporosis.
(sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28408067, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21766228)
It is also wise to get a diet rich in polyphenols for their cancer-fighting abilities. Free radicals can attack molecules all over the body, including those in the DNA. This DNA damage puts you at a much higher risk for cancer.
Finally, polyphenols act as a “prebiotic” (not to be confused with probiotics) and help with a proper balance of good bacteria in your gut. Prebiotics feed the good bacteria in your gut and may help crowd out bad bacteria.
If you are unaware of how important this is, I’ll leave you with an interesting fact:
You have roughly 10 times more bacteria cells in your body than human cells. It turns out that we are not humans with a few bacteria, but bacteria with a little bit of human!
Having the proper balance of this bacteria is important for mood, disease prevention, aging, and weight management.
How to get polyphenols
So now that you know how important it is to get polyphenols into your body, we need to talk about HOW you can get them into your body. My personal favorite way of doing that is through food choices. When it comes to nutrition and health, there really isn’t an effective way to overcome a poor diet by taking supplements.
Lucky for us there are plenty of delicious polyphenol-rich foods available all year round. You’re probably already eating or drinking some of them.
Here are a few of my favorites with polyphenol content attached:
- Coffee (214 mg per 100 ml)
- Spinach (119 mg per 100 grams)
- Blueberries (560-836 mg per 100 grams)
- Black Olives (569 mg per 100 grams)
- Chestnut (1,215 per 100 grams)
Beyond food, certain seasonings have high levels of polyphenols as well. The highest you ask? Peppermint at 11,960 mg per 100 grams and cloves at a whopping 15,188 mg per 100 grams.
As a general rule of thumb, you want to eat a colorful diet and use seasonings when you cook. Not only will you enjoy better flavors but you’ll ensure you’re getting a good dose of antioxidants with every meal.
Berries, especially blueberries, are absolutely incredible at maintaining health. In fact, Women who eat 3 servings of blueberries and strawberries per week effectively lower their risk of heart attack by a staggering 32%, and decreased their likelihood of developing type-2 diabetes by stabilizing blood sugar.
How to “sneak” antioxidants in
I completely understand that most of you are busy, and are already implementing healthy lifestyle changes. That’s great.
Whether you are changing what you eat to cut down on carbs, eating fewer meals, or wrestling with emotional eating, you’re already focusing on your food. I don’t want to overwhelm you with one more thing to worry about so I have an idea that may help you sneak these things into your diet.
Take a look at what you are already eating. Eggs or oatmeal in the morning? A salad for lunch?
Whatever it is throughout the day think of a polyphenol-rich food or seasoning you could add without making the meal less enjoyable. It may even make your meal better.
You can add blueberries to your oatmeal, spinach or to your eggs, or add peppermint or clove to your teas.
This isn’t a miracle cure-all or quick fix so it’s important that you can fit these antioxidants into your routine without sacrificing the other healthy habits you already have in place.
Anti-oxidants like polyphenols are important to maintain your overall health and wellness. They help fight off the breakdown of the body by free radicals which can help prevent premature aging, cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Don’t stress about getting them in large quantities though because sneaking them into your regular meals can be just as effective without derailing your current lifestyle.
By all means, eat a colorful diet, but if your cravings lead you to thoughts of those sugary rainbow candies then you may be better served by finding out if you are an emotional eater first.
Thankfully, I’ve put together a test to help you determine if you are an emotional eater which you can take by clicking here.