Phytochemicals and Polyphenols
Harai is a rich source of the micronutrients collectively referred to as ‘polyphenols.’ In fact, because it is produced entirely from organic crops, utilizing even the nutrient-rich skins and seeds of fruits and vegetables, these healthy compounds are particularly abundant in Harai. But what exactly are polyphenols?
The National Health Institute (NIH) offers a good primer on these essential organic compounds, which occur to varying degrees in countless fruits, nuts and vegetables. Polyphenols are a subgroup of phytochemicals, “phyto” being a prefix derived from Greek, meaning “plant.” Spices, berries, green tea and beans are all rich in polyphenols. Cacao, the source of chocolate, contains plenty of polyphenols.
While it is certain that polyphenols play a vital role in our health, with plenty of research demonstrating their anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, researchers are cautious about recommending them in supplemental form. Some publications even caution that too much of polyphenols (like vitamins and minerals) might not be a good thing.
There are many factors that affect the way polyphenols interact with the body. The source and parts of the plant eaten, other foods eaten at the same time, whether the food is cooked or not, as well as the individual’s unique digestive ‘biome” are all variables that might make the polyphenols we ingest from foods more or less effective. When taken in supplemental form, where sources are unknown, and refining and extraction methods obscure, uncertainty is further multiplied. Additives are another factor to consider.
Yet while all of the above casts doubt on the efficacy of many supplements, there is still no question that the large class of phytochemicals comprising the polyphenols is essential to our health. Experts dealing with the treatment and healing of cancer emphasize the importance of good nutrition, at the core of which is a balanced diet rich in plants containing phytochemicals, including polyphenols. (See: https://www.breastcancer.org/tips/nutrition/reduce_risk/foods/phytochem)
So while we wait for science to develop the tools to better explain how nutrients work in the body, and how supplements benefit our health (or not), let’s make every effort to get the plant-based nutrition we need.