More so now than ever, we are bombarded with mixed messages around nutritional science and what we should be doing to support our immune health. But, no matter what changes based on new science, evidence behind the importance of eating colourful plant-based foods rich in polyphenols only gets stronger and stronger.
The colour of these foods is only one piece of the nutritional puzzle, but even this one piece is so important to our health. So, what are polyphenols?
Polyphenols are a category of naturally occurring compounds found mostly in fruits and vegetables that have powerful antioxidant properties. These natural compounds can be divided into primary and secondary metabolites. Think of primary metabolites like the lifeline that keeps the organism, in this case, the fruit or vegetable, alive. The secondary metabolites are what keeps the organism competitive within its environment; whether that be protection from environmental hazards or competing plants, or attracting pollinating animals, and play a key role in the overall growth and reproduction of the plant. Polyphenols are considered secondary metabolites.
There are over 500 unique polyphenols that are collectively known as phytochemicals?
What makes polyphenols so fascinating are the beneficial functions they play in the human body, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumor, and immune system modulation effects. And, given the importance of maintaining a healthy immune system right now, we thought we would make this the focus in this edition of Clever Covers.
70% of our immune cells reside inside our gut? Immune cells and immune proteins live in the gut and are required to fight off pathogens, antigens and allergens!
Our digestive system is supported by and linked to other systems of the body such as the central nervous system, the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system, but especially the immune system. Without a healthy gut, we will see an imbalance of our immune system, heightened inflammation, poor absorption of nutrients, hormone imbalances and poor elimination of waste. Further, given gut health is directly connected to the central nervous system (aka that clever brain of yours) via a major pathway called the vagus nerve, it’s no wonder that we will also see issues related to poor mental health such as fatigue, depression, an inability to concentrate and mental fog, if we are not consuming foods that support our gut health.
About 95% of serotonin is made in the gut through the direction of our microbiome (gut bacterial)! How cool is that?!
Since inflammation and oxidation in the body have significant effects on our immune system, the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties found in polyphenols are a natural solution to help support our immune health. Wild blueberries, also known as lowbush wild blueberries, are an abundant source of polyphenols. In fact, a USDA study found wild blueberries to have the highest levels of antioxidants out of 40 fruits and vegetables! But, before you start eating quarts upon quarts of those beautiful little berries, there’s something you need to be aware of…bioavailability.
Let’s pretend we are both eating a bowl of wild blueberries right now. Wild blueberries not only have one of the highest levels of polyphenols but numerous other health benefits. However, if we are both consuming wild blueberries it does not necessarily mean our body will absorb the health benefits in the same way, respectively. This is where bioavailability plays a role. The bioavailability (aka absorption) of these wild blueberries depends upon our gut microbiome, in other words, what is happening with our gut bacteria.
But, what if there was a way we could make those “good for you” wild blueberries, more bioavailable?
Here at Clever, we have an answer for that.