Everything You Need To Know About Epicatechin
Each week we will shine the spotlight on a couple of phytonutrients, covering all we can about them. Don’t know what phytonutrients are? Read our article all about phytonutrients. This week, one we’ll take a look at is epicatechin. You have probably heard about phytonutrients like beta-carotene, but have you ever heard of epicatechin? Pronounced ep-eh-cat-eh-kin but don’t worry if you have trouble, you aren’t alone. Read on to find out everything you should know about epicatechin.
First things first, we need to talk about how to get the benefits of epicatechin. Nutrients— including vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals—can often be isolated or synthetic. These don’t even come close to natural nutrients in their whole food state; they are not the same. We believe in the synergistic effect of all phytonutrients. Read our helpful resource about how they are different and why natural nutrients, as opposed to isolated or synthetic, are safer and much more beneficial.
Epicatechin belongs to the flavonoid family within the polyphenol class of phytonutrients. It is, as all phytonutrients are, found in plants. Cocoa, tea, grapes, dark chocolate, and apple cider are among the foods that contain the highest amounts of epicatechin (green tea, apples, cocoa products, and red wine specifically).
Due to its antioxidant properties, epicatechin consumed through whole food can help manage diabetes and improve heart health. Epicatechin is similar to insulin in that it protects osmotic fragility of cells. Osmotic fragility is the destruction of red blood cells when they are subject to osmotic stress. Epicatehchin also increases acetylcholinesterase activity in diabetic red blood cells, which is low in type 2 diabetic patients.
Heart health is another aspect of health that epicatechin affects. It reduces lipid peroxidation (a free radical-mediated chain of reactions that leads to oxidative deterioration of polyunsaturated lipids and can cause DNA damage), inhibits platelet aggregation (clumping), dilates blood vessels, and regulates nitric oxide, which widens blood vessel walls and increases blood flow.
According to UCDavis’ Department of Nutrition, consuming foods rich in epicatechin has been shown to increase plasma antioxidant activity, brachial artery dilation, and fat oxidation; promote gut health;, and provide other benefits.
Specifically with gut health, epicatechin may help inhibit growth of harmful bacteria in the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome can contain both good and bad bacteria in addition to archaea, viruses, and eukaryotic microbes. Our gut microbial population largely impacts our health. They are involved in metabolic function, pathogen protection, and the immune system. Microbiota could be linked to cardiovascular disease, irritable bowel disease, clostridium difficile (a bacterium that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon) infection, and inflammatory bowel diseases. Epicatechin is absorbed in the small intestine.
One of the foods containing epicatechin is chocolate. The epicatechin in chocolate and cocoa were shown to prevent coronary heart disease and stroke.
They benefit heart health by decreasing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation, platelet aggregation, oxidative stress, leukotriene levels, insulin resistance, LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol, and breakdown of red blood cells; increasing antioxidant capacity, HDL (the “good” cholesterol) concentration, prostacyclin levels, and nitric oxide production; and by improving endothelial function, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and brachial artery dilation. Cocoa was also shown to improve skeletal muscle structure in heart failure patients.
Though, as with anything, don’t overdo it. Following a chocolate-only diet won’t do you much good. You always want to maintain a healthy balance in your diet and eating habits. Eliminating entire food groups would also eliminate certain essential nutrients your body needs to function properly.
Broad beans (a.k.a. fava beans) also contain a decent amount of epicatechin. Broad beans promote a healthy heart, weight loss, good blood pressure levels, regularity, and better immunity. Not only do they provide you with epicatechin, they also contain fiber and protein in addition to many other beneficial nutrients.
Epicatechin contributes to its strong antioxidant capabilities along with other polyphenols, protecting against free radicals that can damage cells. Broad beans help protect against diabetes and prevent constipation. In addition, broad beans may help alleviate Parkinson’s disease and anemia symptoms and prevent birth defects as well as bone loss.
The Last Bite
Epicatechin is one phytonutrient present in certain plant foods that can benefit our health in many ways. They can benefit our gut, heart, brain, muscle, and other aspects of our health. To up your intake of this phytochemical, you can consume cocoa, tea, grapes, apples, broad beans, and other plant foods.
Keep in mind, like all nutrients, epicatechin should be consumed from whole food. All those benefits are thanks to the synergy of chemicals, not a sole chemical, working together within fruits and vegetables. The magic is in the combination!
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