- Polyphenols are plant nutrients being studied for their effects on a variety of human health outcomes
- Polyphenols may especially have a positive effect on our immune balance
- Polyphenols appear to act on the microbiome, the immune system, our metabolism and on pathways related to oxidative stress
- Polyphenols are found in high levels in spices, teas, coffee, and colorful fruits and vegetables
- Stress-resistant plants like Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat are also rich sources of unique polyphenols
- Consuming more polyphenols in their natural forms may help improve our immune balance
What are polyphenols?
When thinking about the nutritional benefits of food, you’ve likely heard about macronutrients aka “macros”. Macronutrients include fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Our food also contains micronutrients, which are vitamins and minerals. But we now understand that the plants we eat can be rich in a third group of nutrients called phytonutrients, which may have a number of important effects on our health. Of all the types of phytonutrients, polyphenols are among the most studied for their benefits on our general and our immune health.
-Polyphenols are a unique group of plant nutrients being studied for their effects on human health
Polyphenols are a large and diverse group of molecules. In fact, over 8000 polyphenols have been identified! The biggest group of polyphenols are called flavonoids. In general, polyphenols are most concentrated in colorful fruits, leafy vegetables, tea, coffee, wine, cocoa and certain unique plants like Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat. Plants produce polyphenols to help protect themselves against environmental stressors, so plants that are good at dealing with stress tend to be rich in polyphenols. It’s thought that when people consume polyphenols, they may realize health benefits.
What does the research say about polyphenols and health?
The first researcher to observe the healthful properties of polyphenols was Nobel prize winner Albert Szent-Györgyi in the 1930’s. Later, scientists showed that people who consumed more dietary polyphenols had lower rates of developing heart disease. Subsequent research has found a link between higher consumption of polyphenols and benefits on heart disease, metabolic health and brain function. Some examples of this work include:
- In a 2020 paper, people who ate more polyphenols had lower rates of developing Alzheimer’s dementia.
- Consuming polyphenol-rich chocolate has been linked to lower levels of salivary cortisol and lower levels of multiple stress hormones after exposure to stress
- A 2019 publication found that people who consumed more polyphenols had a lower chance of having cardiovascular health events
- A 2018 paper showed that people who ate more of specific polyphenols had lower rates of developing depressive symptoms
- Eating more polyphenols is linked to longer life compared to those eating less
- In an interventional trial, people who ate more polyphenols had less depressive symptoms than those eating less
- A 2021 review paper found that eating of extra polyphenols for 6 or more days was linked to improved muscle recovery after exercise, as well as decreased muscle soreness
- People who eat more dietary polyphenols may be at significantly lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes, according to a 2017 study
What does the research say about polyphenols and immune health?
A wide range of research papers suggest that polyphenols may have positive effects on immune issues ranging from excessive inflammation to infections to allergies. It has also been suggested that one of the major reasons polyphenols are linked to lower rates of chronic disease is through their immune effects.
One of the areas where polyphenols may of particular benefit is in balancing immune health. Why would this be the case? With 70% of the immune system based in the gut, polyphenols absorbed in our GI tract come into contact with our gut immune cells. Some polyphenols are absorbed in the small intestine directly, but most pass into the large intestine (colon) where they influence and are influenced by our gut microbiome. In fact, it’s thought that polyphenols help promote a healthy microbiome, just as a healthy microbiome helps us benefit from polyphenols.
Here are some recent studies showing a link between polyphenols, gut and immune health:
- A 2022 review suggested that taking certain polyphenols in supplement form could be a potential strategy for allergies
- A 2019 paper found that higher blood levels of polyphenols predicted lower blood levels of inflammation
- A 2021 paper found that eating a diet rich in polyphenols was linked to markers of better gut health
- A 2020 review paper reported a link between polyphenols and gut immune balance as well as better microbiome health
An exclusive daily polyphenol concentrate based around Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat's immune-active plant nutrients. 400 mg of immune-active polyphenols like quercetin and hesperidin per serving.
How do polyphenols work?
A number of studies point to diverse roles of polyphenols in influencing human health. While the science here is pretty technical, some important ways that polyphenols work include:
Should we be taking specific polyphenols?
Some research supports a role for consuming individual polyphenols to support health. For example:
- Quercetin (a polyphenol found in onions, capers, spinach and Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat) has been linked to better brain health, athletic performance and improvements in immune balance (1, 2)
- Fisetin (a polyphenol found in strawberries, kiwis, apples, onions, tomatoes and nuts) has been linked to beneficial effects in animal models of asthma and is being studied for its effect on inflammation in humans.
- Curcumin (a polyphenol found in turmeric) has been linked to improvements in immune balance/lowering of inflammation in human trials
- Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate (EGCG) is a polyphenol found in green tea that has been shown in a wide variety of animal and cell models to have beneficial effects on immune balance
- Luteolin (a polyphenol found in chili peppers, celery and spinach) is being actively studied for its role in balancing brain immunity
On the whole, however, research seems more supportive of health benefits from eating foods with a variety of polyphenols rather than trying to pick and choose individual molecules to ingest. It’s rather notable that in nature, polyphenols don’t occur in isolation. Eating whole plant foods means we receive a range of naturally occurring polyphenols that served the plant’s health.
What are the best food sources of polyphenols?
Generally speaking, some of the richest dietary sources of polyphenols are:
- Apples, grapes, peaches, and plums (especially the skins!)
- Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits
- Spices like cloves and turmeric
- Colorful vegetables like red onions, spinach, and broccoli
- Coffee, tea, and red wine
- Olive oil
Unfortunately, top sources of calories in our modern diet are grains that are relatively low in their polyphenol content, especially when they’re refined. Compared to staple cereals like wheat, corn, rice, and even conventional buckwheat. Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat (a non-grain seed) is a unique gluten-free option that has proven to be especially high in polyphenols.
Loaded with 280 mg of immune-active plant polyphenols like quercetin and rutin per serving (¼ cup), with natural 2-HOBA, fiber, protein and resistant starch. 100% organic plant nutrition!