top of page

Polyphenols: Nature’s Best Body Armor

If you’ve been paying attention to the conversation about plant-based diets, you have no doubt heard the term polyphenols. Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds found in the outer skin of colorful fruits and vegetables. What’s interesting about these compounds is that they were designed by nature to defend the plant against ultraviolet damage from the sun or from invading pathogens. The red, blue and purple pigments found in fruits, vegetables, tea and herbs are due to their polyphenol content. In essence, polyphenols are a plant’s body armor that protects the precious inner part of the fruit or vegetable. Turns out this is a great analogy for how polyphenols work in our body. When we eat fruits and vegetables, these polyphenols fortify our immune system and protect our cells from harmful invaders and internal troublemakers.

In the last decade, there has been a lot of research on the health benefits of plant polyphenols as antioxidants. The conclusions have strongly suggested that long term consumption of a plant-based diet rich in polyphenols offers protection against the development of chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and neurodegenerative disease.

The research shows that the antioxidant power provided by polyphenols help protect the cells in our body by safeguarding against three immune system disruptions: oxidative stress, inflammation and insulin resistance.

Protection Against Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress refers to the excessive production of dangerous system disruptors called free radicals. Free radicals are molecules with one or more unpaired electron that bounce around inside the body causing havoc. The body’s cells produce free radicals during normal metabolic processes. Normally, cells also produce antioxidants that neutralize these free radicals. When the body is unable to maintain a balance between antioxidants and free radicals, an imbalance in this protective system occurs that can lead to cell damage.

Eating fruits and vegetables with polyphenols provide an abundance of antioxidants that can ensure your body always has what it needs to neutralize these harmful free radicals.

Protection Against Inflammation

Inflammation is an immune response that happens when your body feels under attack. It is often triggered by Infections and injury such as a cut finger or sprained ankle. But, inflammation is also triggered by oxidative stress. This is the most dangerous kind of inflammation because it tends to be persistent inflammation that happens inside our body within our vital organs.

Under normal circumstances, inflammation goes away after the immune system eliminates the free radicals and repairs the damage. But, prolonged exposure to pathogens and oxidative stress leads to chronic inflammation, which has severe negative effects on the body and can lead to chronic diseases that are far too common today.

Again, Polyphenols provide the antioxidant protection the body needs to keep free radicals in balance and reduce the risk of harmful cell damage. Which in turn reduces your risk of chronic disease.

Protection Against Insulin Resistance

Insulin is an important hormone that controls many bodily processes. Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond well to insulin and can’t use glucose from your blood for energy. Over time, your body’s diminishing response to insulin creates dangerously high blood sugar levels that become more and more difficult to keep in check. Long term problems with Insulin resistance are at the heart of many modern health conditions.

Studies have shown that eating an abundance of antioxidant rich polyphenols can improve insulin sensitivity. There are various mechanisms that make this happen. However, it should be no surprise by now that reducing oxidative stress in the body is one mechanism that lowers insulin resistance.