As more people become conscious of their health and what they put on their plate, they learn about the various options available when it comes to boosting digestive health, including some dos and don’ts — after all, gut health is important when it comes to the overall well-being of a person.
According to nutritionist Bhakti Kapoor, polyphenols — once thought to be simply a type of antioxidant — are now “known to provide prebiotic food for the microbiome”. In an Instagram post, she wrote that one of the most recent advancements in microbiome science is the “revelation of the role of polyphenols”.
What are polyphenols?
Healthline.com defines them as “a category of plant compounds”, whose regular consumption can “boost digestion and brain health, as well as protect against heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even certain cancers”. It adds that red wine, dark chocolate, tea, and berries are some of the best-known sources.
In her Instagram post, Kapoor wrote that after reviewing “dozens of studies on the relationship between polyphenols and the gut microbiome”, scientists now recommend the regular consumption of polyphenol-rich foods for better gut health and immune function. These foods include — according to the expert — fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, tea, dark chocolate, and wine.
“They have the ability to act as antioxidants, which means, they neutralise dangerous free radicals that would otherwise damage your cells and increase your risk of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease,” Kapoor wrote, adding that polyphenols also reduce inflammation, and help in the prevention and treatment of autoimmune diseases like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.
Concurring, Dr Archana Juneja, consultant, endocrinologist, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital Mumbai told indianexpress.com that polyphenols impact the gut microbiome positively. “They reduce the effects of free radicals and reactive oxygen species, thereby reducing systemic inflammation and insulin resistance. Thus, they protect against lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cardio-vascular diseases,” the doctor said.
To this, Reema Kinjalkar, nutritionist, Urban Platter added that polyphenols protect against heart diseases, due to their “strong antioxidant properties” that reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol. They also reduce the risk of developing a blood clot. “Polyphenols reduce fasting blood sugar levels, too, to improve glucose tolerance, and increase insulin sensitivity, all of which are significant factors in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes,” she said.
Kapoor listed the benefits in the following eight points:
* They reduce inflammation
* They combat oxidative stress
* They feed the gut microbiome
* They improve brain health and cognitive function
* They lower blood sugar levels
* They promote good gut health
* They fight against cancer
* They lower your risk of heart disease
In fruits, apples, grapes, pomegranates, strawberries, plums, etc., are rich in polyphenols, while in vegetables, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, spinach, etc., are good sources. In nuts and seeds, almonds, flax seeds, walnuts are rich in polyphenols.