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Polyphenols Benefits: 8 Potential Ways That Could Impact General Health

Over 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Plants bear tasty fruits and vegetables packed with good stuff, like polyphenols. Studies reveal the various potential polyphenols benefits.

Polyphenols contain chemicals called phytochemicals that can help keep your body healthy. Some of these phytochemicals can protect plants. But they may also help manage heart problems and high blood sugar levels (diabetes).

Scientists worldwide have been studying these helpful chemicals in recent years. Understand how they work and where to find them:

  • Components of polyphenols
  • Polyphenols’ potential health benefits
  • How they work in the body
  • Where to find them  

Understanding the Polyphenols Benefits

Polyphenols are healthy compounds found in plants, vegetables, and fruits. Studies show that polyphenols can help prevent health conditions. It includes high blood sugar levels or diabetes, high blood fats or cholesterol, and cancer.

Think of polyphenols like a big family. Experts group them depends on two things:

  1. How many ring-like structures (called phenol rings) do they have
  2. How these rings are connected or linked together

Now, this polyphenol family has members with their respective traits:

Phenolic acids

You can find natural chemicals like phenolic acids and flavonoids in plants. There are two main types of phenolic acids. Hydroxybenzoic acids and hydroxycinnamic acids are types of healthy substances in your food.

One common kind is caffeic acid in apples, plums, tomatoes, and grapes. Another is curcumin, which gives some foods and products a yellow color. Also, fruits and veggies like blackberries and red fruits have these acids. These substances can act like health defenders. They fight off harmful particles in your body.


Flavonoids are healthy substances also found in plants. Imagine them as molecules with three rings. Flavonoids have a unique structure, and there are over 4,000 types.

Flavonols are a flavonoid found in onions, broccoli, and leeks. The colors in fruits, like red or blue, come from anthocyanins, another flavonoid. Plus, you can find different flavonoids in various parts of plants, like fruit peels or seeds.

Some scientists suggest flavonoids can help stop cancer growth in animals. They interact with cells in helpful ways. For example, they act like antioxidants and guard your cells from harm.


An excellent example of stilbenes is resveratrol. Picture stilbenes as having two ring parts joined by a small bridge. Plants mainly make stilbenes to fight fungal infections or heal injuries.

Some studies suggest resveratrol is good for plants and might be helpful for people, too. Scientists looked into its potential for various health conditions through its modes of action. These are anti-cancer, anti-inflammation, anti-fungal, and anti-microbial properties. Additionally, people have used it in traditional medicine for various health issues.


They’re common in plants, with a good source being flax seeds and nuts. Some lignans act like estrogen, which is a hormone in the body. When you eat them, your gut bacteria change them into other types of lignans that can also mimic estrogen.

According to some scientists, they might help prevent cancer. Lignans might act as a substitute if your body has too little estrogen. If you have too much estrogen, lignans might lessen its effect. It could also help prevent some cancers.

Early studies also think lignans might work as antioxidants. However, researchers are still exploring how they work.

Discovering the 8 Potential Polyphenols Benefits

Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a mix of health issues. It includes high blood pressure, sugar, and unhealthy weight. If left unchecked, these conditions can lead to heart problems.

Studies show that polyphenols in foods like cocoa, tea, and fruits can help fight MetS. It includes flavonoids, which act as health boosters. They can potentially improve various body functions.

1.  Supporting Heart Health

One of the benefits of the well-researched polyphenols is their role in improving heart health. Experts are still figuring out which polyphenols are best for the heart. Flavonoids, found in cocoa and soy, seem good for the heart. However, not all are effective.

Studies suggest polyphenols can help lower blood pressure and reduce heart disease risks. Moreover, drinking cocoa and black tea or eating purple grapes can benefit hearts. They work by improving how certain parts of blood vessels function. Also, they could reduce unhealthy blood clotting.

Polyphenols can help people who have long-term illnesses stay healthy. For example, cocoa’s flavan-3-ols (a kind of flavanol) can lower risks for stroke, heart attack, and diabetes. Some other compounds like quercetin and resveratrol from fruits are also great for heart health.

Experts explain that polyphenols help protect from free radicals. These usually occur in the body but are harmful in excess. As a result, polyphenols could improve heart health, blood pressure, and sugar levels.

Additionally, polyphenols can work better with the helpful bacteria in your gut. They can also team up with other plant chemicals for even more health benefits. Eating polyphenols-rich foods could help prevent heart-related problems, coupled with a healthy lifestyle.

2. Controlling High Blood Sugar Levels

Type-2 diabetes (T2D) is a health problem where the body struggles to use insulin properly. It leads to high sugar levels in the blood. It can result in various health issues like nerve pain, kidney problems, eye issues, and a higher risk of death.

Diet is one vital factor that can help prevent or manage this condition. Polyphenols benefits may be significant for people with T2D. Some studies suggest that foods rich in antioxidants and polyphenols can lower the risk of T2D.

Polyphenols can help manage blood sugar in various ways:

  • Protect the particular cells in the pancreas that make insulin
  • Reduce how much sugar gets absorbed from food
  • Control how much sugar the liver releases
  • Help muscles and other body parts use sugar more efficiently

Polyphenols help in putting a brake on the sugar rush in your body. For example, they can slow down how fast you digest starchy foods like bread and pasta. As a result, you don’t get a quick spike in blood sugar.

Plus, they help your body’s cells listen to insulin better. So, the sugar in your blood goes where it should go.

3. Reducing Excess Weight

Being overweight or obese is not just about gaining weight. Experts link it to inflammation and stress in the body. People might diet, exercise, take medicines, or undergo surgery to combat it. However, these don’t always work long-term. For those looking to manage their weight, polyphenols benefits might be helpful.

Studies show that polyphenols in foods can help reduce this inflammation and stress. Examples are green tea, grapes (resveratrol), and turmeric (curcumin).

In lab tests, these polyphenols helped reduce fat cell growth and fat storage. At the same time, it increased the breakdown of fats. They also control pathways in cells that manage fat creation, inflammation, and other processes.

Animal tests support these findings. Polyphenols showed benefits like weight loss and better blood sugar control. However, studies on people about this topic have been limited and shown mixed results.

Similarly, studies on animals show that these polyphenols might help burn more energy and break down fat. They may even keep new fat cells from forming. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the most abundant polyphenol in green tea.

According to the study, EGCG can help with weight loss more than quercetin in berries. But, instead of directly making people lose weight, EGCG and quercetin might lower the risk of heart problems.

Lab tests often use higher amounts of these polyphenols than you usually eat. It is a challenge because animals lose weight with high doses of polyphenols. But people may not see the same drastic results. Scientists still need to know if these findings can help people in real life. So, more research is required.

4. Protecting Brain Health

Research suggests that polyphenol benefits extend to brain health. As an antioxidant, they could reduce the risk of thinking or cognitive decline.

Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases harm or kill brain cells. It affects thinking and moving abilities. These conditions often show up as people get older. The damage, though, starts much earlier in life.

There are no permanent remedies. However, there are ways to make the symptoms easier to manage. These brain-related conditions share common issues like brain inflammation and oxidative stress. They are like rust for your brain cells. Scientists are investigating whether certain foods or supplements could help protect the brain and delay or prevent these conditions.

Studies show that polyphenols in foods like green tea and red wine could help protect the brain. For example, EGCG in green tea can cross the human “blood-brain barrier” and protect brain cells from damage.

Also, resveratrol in red wine can help with inflammation in the brain. It may improve brain function in Alzheimer’s models.

These polyphenols could work in various ways. For example, they could control inflammation, help cell repair, and even affect genes. Some research even suggests these compounds could help with conditions like depression.

Scientists noted that too much of these compounds could be harmful. So, more studies are needed to know the right amounts and forms for the best results. Polyphenols show promise in helping to prevent or manage brain conditions. But more research is required.

5. Managing Cancer

One of the benefits of polyphenols include their potential ability to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Cancer is when cells in the body grow out of control. Eating lots of fruits and veggies might help prevent some cancers. In the past, studies said that eating these foods reduced the risk of prostate and colon cancer. Some recent studies show that they may only help a little.

Still, many fruits and veggies contain polyphenols that might fight cancer, especially in the stomach. For instance, green tea has a component that can stop cancer cells from growing. Olive oil also has helpful parts that might protect against colon cancer.

These polyphenols work in different ways, like removing harmful agents or controlling cell growth. They might be a vital part of fighting cancer based on studies. 

Scientists found that quercetin can help fight off lung cancer in mice. Quercetin could reduce cell damage caused by benzo(a)pyrene, a cancer-causing agent. Moreover, it helped boost the activity of antioxidant enzymes, which protect cells from damage.

Scientists suggest quercetin works by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. These are two factors that can contribute to cancer development. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body’s ability to remove them.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to cancer development. Inflammation is a natural immune response that helps the body fight infection. But, chronic inflammation can also contribute to cancer development.

6. Aiding Digestion

The polyphenols benefits also include enhancing gut health. They foster a healthy microbiome, which can improve digestion.

Your gut is full of tiny beings called “microbes” that help keep you healthy. They play a role in many health conditions like overweight and high blood sugar levels. What you eat can change these microbes.

Unhealthy eating can disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. It leads to various health issues. Polyphenols can improve this balance. They have health benefits but are hard to absorb in the body.

Scientists are working on ways to deliver these polyphenols more effectively. They suggest combining them with probiotics to improve gut health. At the same time, this mix can tackle various health problems.

Scientists know that probiotics are good bacteria that help the gut stay healthy. Some polyphenols also promote beneficial gut bacteria and aid in digestion. Certain healthy foods contain phenolic compounds (PC). They can make probiotics work even better.

Experts suggest these PCs can make probiotics stick better to your gut. They can survive the journey through the stomach. Moreover, PCs can change the mix of bacteria in your gut. As a result, it helps to reduce the risk of some health conditions.

Both tend to last longer and work better when PCs and probiotics are together in foods. But scientists need more studies to ensure how they help each other boost general health.

7. Boosting Physical Performance

Polyphenols can help athletes perform better and recover faster. According to scientists, they work in many ways.

First, they help heart health. Second, they reduce inflammation. And third, they allow good bacteria to grow in the gut. These benefits are possible because polyphenols interact with the body’s cells and DNA to make people healthier.

Exercise produces free radicals, which aren’t entirely harmful. They help stimulate your body’s natural defense systems. But, too many can cause damage. Some athletes use antioxidant supplements to balance this. But getting these antioxidants through a regular diet is generally better.

Scientists suggest taking polyphenols for at least a week to improve performance moderately. But, the optimal dose is still unknown. Polyphenols could help with recovery from intense exercise.

Additionally, polyphenols are antioxidants that might affect how athletes perform. Some researchers think they slow down training improvements. In contrast, others believe they boost energy production and blood flow.

To see their actual effect on athletic performance, researchers looked at 14 studies mostly involving trained men. The results showed that taking polyphenols for at least a week improved performance by about 1.90%. Especially, a type called quercetin gave a 2.82% boost.

The men reported no harmful side effects. In sum, polyphenols, especially quercetin, can help improve athletic performance.

Research on how polyphenols benefit athletic performance needs more detail. It would help better understand polyphenols’ full impact on muscle strength during resistance training. Also, scientists are still figuring out the best ways to use polyphenols, like how much you should take and when.

8. Promoting Healthy Aging

As you age, your body changes, making you more likely to get sick or have health problems. It is all part of aging. One popular theory says that it happens because of oxidative stress.

Imagine your cells are like a car that rusts over time. This rusting in your cells happens faster as you age because your body gets less good at fixing it. Oxidative stress is like rust, making you more likely to get diseases as you get older.

Polyphenols are helpful for your brain while aging, based on research. They can pass through the blood-brain barrier. It’s a filter that usually blocks many substances from entering the brain.

According to scientists, polyphenols likely make them effective in protecting brain health. For example, resveratrol from berries and grapes, may even help prolong life. It works similarly to eating less food, which extends life span. Moreover, it has multiple functions in the body. It can regulate cell behavior and reduce harmful substances.

Moreover, it can protect against diseases often associated with aging, such as cancer and heart problems. Studies show that it has potential health benefits beyond aging.

Additionally, scientists studied tea catechin polyphenols. They found that as people get older, their cells show more signs of damage. Plus, they are less able to repair themselves.

Tea catechins helped protect these cells, especially in older people. These findings hint that drinking tea with catechins could help your cells stay young and healthy as you age.

Learning the Role of Polyphenols in the Body

High levels of ROS can lead to various health problems, including cancer. Unlike synthetic antioxidants, which have raised safety concerns, polyphenols are safe and effective.

Polyphenols can help fight inflammation in a few ways, based on research. They target harmful molecules called ROS, reducing their numbers. It can lead to less cell damage and stop specific chemical reactions that worsen inflammation. By doing this, polyphenols help keep inflammation in check.

Tests on animals and in labs show that polyphenols can help reduce brain, liver, and gut inflammation. These natural substances seem better at preventing inflammation than fixing it once it’s started.

However, what works in animals or lab tests sometimes works differently in people. So, more research is needed to know how best to use polyphenols to fight inflammation in people.

Researchers gathered information from about 200 papers to discuss polyphenols. They found that polyphenols have many health benefits. It includes fighting off disease and reducing inflammation.

However, many factors can change how effective they are in the body. These include how they interact with other foods. Its effect also depends on unique body traits like genetics and gender. Thus, future research should consider these factors to make the results more useful for people.

Finding Polyphenols in Food and Supplements

You can find polyphenols in fruits, vegetables, nuts, cereals, and edible plants. But figuring out the right amount to eat and how they work in your body is complicated. Plus, your body does not absorb polyphenols very well. So, you need to consume them regularly.

Some studies use super-high levels that people wouldn’t eat regularly. Additionally, it is still being determined if polyphenols are safe and helpful for everyone. Scientists and health experts are still learning more about how much to eat for health benefits.

Moreover, studying the health benefits of polyphenols is tough. There are almost thousands, each one acting differently in the body. How your gut bacteria process them can also change their effects.

Regardless of these nuances, natural polyphenols can generally be good for health. Scientists used a big database called Phenol-Explorer to find out which foods have the most polyphenols. They found these polyphenol-rich natural foods:

  • Spices like cloves
  • Cocoa products
  • Dark-colored berries
  • Seeds (flaxseed)
  • Nuts (chestnut and hazelnut)
  • Olives and artichokes

Polyphenols Benefits in Fruits

Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are rich in polyphenols. A study shows that berries can be good for gut health. They may help prevent conditions like inflammation and different types of cancer.

Moreover, these berry polyphenols can balance your gut’s good and bad bacteria. Experts say this action is vital to staying healthy. They also work in different ways to control inflammation. As a result, they can manage conditions like high blood sugar levels and heart-related ailments.

Also, olive oil extracted from olive fruits is rich in polyphenols with many health benefits. These benefits include controlling blood sugar levels and fighting heart problems and cancer.

Polyphenols Benefits in Vegetables

Onions, broccoli, and cabbage contain polyphenols. Moreover, artichoke is packed with phenolic acids and flavonoids. They are a vegetable that also plays a role in traditional medicine. Their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions help neutralize harmful particles in the body. Scientists suggest they can reduce inflammation, which also helps people with anemia.

Polyphenols Benefits in Herbs and Spices

Some spices like clove, thyme, oregano, and rosemary are packed with polyphenols. These polyphenols are good at fighting off harmful agents in your body that can lead to diseases. Scientists suggest they work by cleaning up unhealthy particles. At the same time, they reduce stress on your cells. Moderate intake is best since taking too much is also not good.

Polyphenols Benefits in Nuts and Seeds

The lignans in flaxseed can affect cancer in many ways. Scientists say they could affect cell signals and block blood flow to tumors. Even though some studies hint at their cancer-fighting benefits, more clinical trials are needed to know for sure.

People usually throw away chestnut shells. But they contain polyphenols. Scientists found a way to pull out two kinds of these polyphenols. One is easy-to-get or extractable polyphenols (EPs). In contrast, the other, called non-extractable phenols (NEPs), is harder to get.

Both types are good for health, but people usually only pay attention to EPs. The study shows that people can get lots of NEPs with the proper methods. These compounds could make chestnut shells really useful instead of just waste.

Polyphenols Benefits in Cocoa and Chigo

Scientists tested different seeds and nuts to see which ones fight off bad stuff in your body. They found out that cacao beans (that’s where chocolate comes from) have the most polyphenols. They are good at keeping you healthy. Campsiandra comosa or chigo seeds are also helpful for the body.

People from Venezuela pulverize these chigo seeds into chiga flour for food. It can be used as an energy source like corn starch. In a study with rats, more chiga flour in their diet made them eat less and gain less weight.

Polyphenols Benefits in Supplements

It’s tricky to compare different studies because they sometimes test differently. Some studies focus on polyphenol pills. These supplements might show little benefit compared to eating polyphenol-rich foods. Many products claim to have these benefits. However, more long-term research is needed to be sure they are safe and helpful.

Supplements can give you a quick dose of polyphenols, but they’re sometimes the best choice. When you eat real food, polyphenols combine with other nutrients to help your body in ways that supplements can’t.

Plus, taking supplements might make some people think it’s okay to skip eating healthy foods. It’s often better to get nutrients like polyphenols from a balanced diet rather than a pill. There are pros and cons of taking supplements. So, talk to a healthcare professional for the best advice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What are polyphenols?

Polyphenols are grouped into phenolic acids, flavonoids, stilbenes, and lignans. You can find these compounds in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes. They have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action that’s good for health. Scientists are still studying how all these compounds work for better health.

Q2: What are the health benefits of polyphenols?

Scientists linked polyphenols to some health benefits. They could control high blood fats or cholesterol, high blood sugar levels, or diabetes. They fight off inflammation and can even help stop cancer cells from forming. Plus, they may even protect against brain-related conditions like Alzheimer’s. They can kick your metabolism into high gear and help control your hunger if you’re trying to lose weight.

Q3: How can I get more polyphenols in my diet?

To increase your intake of polyphenols for better health, consider eating more fruits and vegetables, particularly berries, apples, and leafy greens. Opt for nuts and seeds as snacks. Drinking tea or coffee can also be beneficial. A moderate amount of dark chocolate is another option. If you’re considering polyphenol supplements, seek advice from a healthcare professional first.


Polyphenols are good-for-you chemicals found in plants. They help your heart, brain, and even fight off cancer. To get more polyphenols, eat lots of fruits and veggies like berries and artichokes. Nuts and seeds make good snacks, and a cup of tea or coffee can boost your intake. A little dark chocolate won’t hurt either. Remember, if you’re considering a supplement, talk to your healthcare provider first.

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