I am compiling a talk for early June about the beneficial compounds found in coffee, chocolate and wine. The superstars of this talk are polyphenols; compounds that plants produce to defend themselves against UV rays and microbes.
When we eat plant foods, we benefit from the effects of these polyphenols, which have been researched in relation to cardiovascular disease, ageing, diabetes and cancer (and that's just naming the usual suspects).
There are literally thousands of different kinds of polyphenols, all with slightly different form, function and effect. Different colours signify different polyphenols, so by eating different coloured plant foods we gain a variety of benefits.
In paired-down and over-simplified terms, these polyphenols help our cells work well. And if a cell works well, we as a whole work well.
Polyphenols are one key aspect of why our diet benefits from a variety of plant foods. Think of different colours, seasonality and also whether the plant is grown organically or not. As the polyphenols are the plants' defence mechanism against invaders, the use of herbicides and pesticides lead to a reduced polyphenol content... let alone the fact, that when humans or other animals ingest herbicides, this is not good news for our own biological systems.
Things like coffee and tea, red wine and dark chocolate are indeed a source of polyphenols... but don't let these be your only ones. Tuck into nature's plentiful plethora of plant foods, and let your cells reap the benefits!
PS if you are new to eating plant foods, introduce new plants gradually to avoid constipation from increased fibre and always chew your foods properly to ensure good digestion.