(NaturalHealth365) Polyphenols are antioxidants from plant foods that work in the body to enhance our health in a variety of ways. In addition, polyphenols are the most abundant antioxidant in our diet and most important for disease prevention.
“Epidemiological studies and associated meta-analyses strongly suggest that long term consumption of diets rich in plant polyphenols offer protection against development of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis and neurodegenerative diseases,” according to a study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
There are many different kinds or types of polyphenols that benefit health such as:
- Isoflavones – are polyphenols with estrogen-like effects and can be found in soy foods.
- Catechins– are polypenolic compounds found in teas, such as green tea.
- Ellagic acid -is a polyphenol found in pomegranates, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, walnuts and pecans.
- Anthocyanins– are polyphenolic compounds that make up the red, purple and blue colors of fruits and vegetables.
Interestingly, even the American Cancer Society (ACS) states, “Ellagic acid seems to have some anticancer properties. It can act as an antioxidant, and has been found to cause cell death in cancer cells in the laboratory.”
ACS goes on to say, “In other laboratory studies, ellagic acid seems to reduce the effect of estrogen in promoting growth of breast cancer cells in tissue cultures. There are also reports that it may help the liver to break down or remove some cancer-causing substances from the blood.”
An individual can expect to see polyphenols improve their health in these six ways:
- Lower cholesterol
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve artery (endothelial) function
- Prevent platelet clumping
- Improve arterial flexibility
- Improved life span
Rich in polyphenols: Walnuts offer a unique set of health benefits
Joe Vinson PhD, along with colleagues from the Department of Chemistry at University of Scranton in Pennsylvania measured free and total polyphenols in nine different types of nuts. Their findings:
“Walnuts rank above peanuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios and other nuts,” said Joe Vinson, Ph.D., who did the analysis.
Dr. Vinson went on to say: “Walnuts were also 4-15 times higher in Vitamin E than the other nuts. Walnuts are unusual in that they not only contain the most common alpha-tocopherol form of vitamin E, but also contain gamma-tocopherol, which has been found to provide significant protection from heart problems. In previous studies, walnuts improved endothelial function, lipid profiles, and blood pressure.”
Walnuts are also unique among nuts as they contain the highest amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acid required by the human body. Our bodies cannot make omega-3 fats so we must get them through food. Most, if not all of us lack sufficient amounts of this essential fatty acid.
We need omega-3 fatty acids for numerous normal body functions, such as controlling blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain. There have been numerous clinical studies that suggest that ALA intake reduces the incidence of coronary heart disease.
While most nuts contain monounsaturated fats, only walnuts are comprised primarily of polyunsaturated fat (13 grams out of 18 grams total fat).
In addition to polyphenol and heart benefits, walnuts are an excellent source of the minerals manganese, copper, phosphorus, and magnesium. New studies are identifying potential benefits for a wide range of conditions including cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and other autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Should we eat roasted, raw or sprouted walnuts?
Dr. Vinson believes that the heat from roasting nuts generally reduces the quality of the antioxidants and for best results – eating raw and unroasted walnuts provides the most benefits.
What about sprouting raw nuts?
Raw nuts are easy to eat right out of a bag, but many health conscious people prefer to soak nuts, especially walnuts and almonds as they find they have a more appealing taste after they are soaked and rinsed.
If you try this yourself you will see, after as little as 20 minutes the soaked water will start turning brown. After a couple hours the residue and tannins from the skins are released into the water and the nut emerges with a smoother more palatable flavor.
For those who feel that walnuts may be a little astringent, then soaking will help. This is because when soaking walnuts, the tannins and phytic acid are rinsed away, leaving behind a softer, buttery flavored smooth nut. The water used to soak nuts and seeds should always be discarded and never used in any cooking recipe.
The health benefits of soaking nuts and seeds
*Enzyme inhibitors get neutralized (see below).
*The amount of vitamins your body can absorb increases.
*The nut is less dense – so digestion is much easier.
*Phytic acid, which inhibits the absorption of vital minerals, is reduced.
The purpose of these enzyme inhibitors is to protect the nut or seed until it has what it needs for growing. Nature allowed the inhibitors and toxic substances to be easily removed when the conditions (enough rain and sun) were met. In nature, when it rains the nut gets enough moisture so it can germinate and produce a plant. The plant then continues to grow with the sunlight.
Thus, by soaking nuts and seeds, you release these toxic enzyme inhibitors AND increase the antioxidants, vitality and health benefits contained within them!
About the author:
Seth Leaf Pruzansky is a co-owner of Living Nutz a certified organic, sprouted raw food snack company in Maine.
Food & Nutrition
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