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Shannon Walter

Amazing Health Benefits of Polyphenol Antioxidants


We've all heard how important antioxidants are. How they play an important role in protecting us from free radicals, but up until recently I never took the time to fully understand what all this meant. What are free radicals? Where do they come from? How do they cause problems in the body?

Free Radicals Explained

The textbook definition of free radicals is that they are highly reactive metabolites. Alright then, but what does that mean? 

Instability of Free Radicals

All molecules consist of electrons, neutrons, and protons. In a happy, stable molecule the number of protons is equal to the number of electrons orbiting the nucleus.

Free radical molecules are missing one of their electrons causing them to be unstable. These naughty, unstable molecules roam throughout the body looking for electrons to steal to restore their own balance while depriving others.

Free Radical Damage. What problems do they cause?

I'm glad you asked. When a mischievous free radical goes about to steal an electron from another molecule, it disturbs that molecules function. The electron theft is known as oxidation or biological rusting.

Yes, your body rusts. Just like a metal wheelbarrow that has been left out in the elements, your body begins to break down from the stress caused by free radicals.



For example, free radicals are well-known in the medical world for their role in disturbing the duplication, maintenance, and structure of DNA proteins. Each and every cell in the body uses DNA. It's the instruction manual for everything.

When the instructions go AWOL, havoc breaks loose. Researchers have linked several chronic illnesses to oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Cancer, Alzheimer's, cataracts, and even multiple sclerosis are a few examples.

Where do they come from?

Ever notice how your body aches after a strenuous workout? Or how your head hurts after cleaning with chlorine bleach? 

During our day to day lives we are exposed to a myriad of highly reactive free radicals. They come from the toxins in our surrounding environments and even from within us. 

Yes, you read that correctly. Our bodies produce free radicals. The energy producing mitochondria in our cells have a highly efficient way of using electrons to produce energy. 

Enter the Antioxidants

We know free radicals are mischievous rascals, but how do antioxidants fit into this picture?

Antioxidants are electron donors.

Antioxidant molecules carry a spare electron with them. When a free radical steals their extra electron, the antioxidants remain stable halting the snowball effect that happens in their absence.

Here's how I imagine it. The antioxidant security detail is walking their beat when they come across a potential situation. A hungry free radical is about to steal little Sally's sandwich. Luckily, the antioxidant always carries an extra sandwich with them. They diffuse the situation by giving the extra sandwich to the free radical, and everyone leaves with a sandwich.

Antioxidant Groups

Under the umbrella of antioxidants lie three main pillars. Carrotenoids, allyl sulfides, and polyphenols are the three major groups of antioxidants that are important for keeping our bodies at optimum performance.  

In this article we are going to focus on just one group- polyphenols.


Types of Polyphenols.

Just as there are different groups of antioxidants, polyphenols are also broke down into four major groups.

Flavenoids

This is the most commonly referred to type of polyphenols. Flavenoids are largely responsible for the flavor, color, and medicinal properties of foods. An important medicinal property of flavenoids is their ability to fight inflammation.

Stilbenes

Stilbenes are a special form of polyphenols. Their claim to fame came from the discovery of resveratrol in the "French Paradox". Researchers were looking for answers as to how the French could consume a diet so high in cholesterol and yet have very little in their blood. The answer came in the form of resveratrol in the wine they drink.

Lignans

This groups of polyphenols deserves an article all it's own. Lignans are both an estrogen blocker and an estrogen mimicker. How is this possible? The answer boils down to their ability to either reduce the amount of estrogen available or add small amounts when necessary.

Phenolic Acid

Phenolic acids are super antioxidant scavengers. They work hard to donate their extra electron. Hydroxycinnamic acids are a type of phenolic acid found in many plant based foods. (Please don't ask me to pronounce it.)

The Health Benefits of Polyphenols

As we've already discussed, polyphenols are antioxidants, and as such they provide us with many health benefits. Here are the top three benefits from consuming a diet high in free radical fighting polyphenols:

Good Heart Health

Polyphenols are excellent heart protectors. Within our blood vessels and heart there is a membrane called endothelium that is largely responsible for controlling our blood pressure. Polyphenols strengthen this membrane allowing it to maintain an healthy contraction and relaxation cycle.

Two other cardiovascular improving benefits of polyphenols are their ability to lower bad cholesterol levels and prevent blood vessel overgrowth.

Balanced Blood Sugar Levels

We all know the viscous cycle of blood sugar spikes and plummets. Eat a lot of sugar and carbs and you'll feel energized for a short period of time. After this hyper time has passed you'll be left feeling quite drained and ill.

A special type of flavenoid found in teas helps to keep a steady, balanced blood sugar level. EGCG (epigallocatechin gellate- try saying that 10 times fast) reduces the amount of starch that is broken down into sugar by nearly 87%.

Less Inflammation and Oxidative Stress

Inflammation is a key component in many chronic diseases. Polyphenol's ability to reduce the amount of inflamation and oxidative stress in the body plays a key role in treating and sometimes reversing these degenerative illnesses. Alzheimer's, dementia, ischemic stroke, Parkinson's, Huntingtons, multiple schlerosis, and arthritis just to name a few.

Polyphenol Supplements

In a perfect world, we would get all the polyphenols we need from the foods we eat. However, due high levels of free radical exposure supplements are needed. During my search for the best polyphenol supplements, two supplements came to the top.
  1. The Red Superfruit Polyphenol Blend from Gundry MD boasts a 5 star rating and a 90 day guarantee. (CLICK HERE)
  2. Polyphenominal 2.0 sold at Bulletproof.com is another good broad spectrum supplement. (CLICK HERE)
The supplements from Gundry MD nudged its way to my top pick for the best antioxidant supplements due to being made in a GMP certified facility in the USA.

Quick Version: Free radicals are villains, antioxidants are superheros, and we need to hire more heroes with supplements. @traditional_mom

Shannon Walter

About Shannon Walter -

Wife, Mommy, and Writer are three of the hats Shannon wears on a daily basis. Natural and holistic wellness is her passion. Diving into medical studies, reading long-winded books, and refitting them into information that is valuable to everyday life.

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