Polyphenols are phytonutrients found mostly in plants and vegetables. They consist of a broad range of compounds like flavonoids, phenolic acid, and tannins. In nature, they are responsible for defending the plants against insects, pathogens, ultraviolet radiation. In humans, these are famous for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They are often used as food colorants. Follow the list of foods rich in polyphenols to add to your daily diet.
Polyphenol consumption can lead to many favorable responses in our bodies. Studies(1) show that regular consumption of polyphenols can protect against cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, and the development of cancer.
Did You Know!
Polyphenols are more resilient than proteins.
Polyphenols have been a topic of extensive research for their various benefits. More than 8000 types of polyphenols have been discovered over the years, but they can be mainly classified into 4 groups.
Type of Polyphenols
|Flavanoids||Dark Chocolate, apple, onion, red cabbage|
|Phenolic Acid||Blueberry, plum, kiwi, cherry|
|Stilbenes||Grape skin, peanut, cranberry|
|Lignans||Seeds – flax, pumpkin, sunflower
Whole-grain – rye, barley
Benefits of Polyphenols
Polyphenols are the largest group of phytochemicals that exist. The question that’s asked the most is, ‘What do polyphenols do for your body?’. With the extensive research that’s been conducted on these chemical compounds, the two main functions that came to light are explained below –
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1. Antioxidant Properties
Antioxidants are required by the human body to get rid of free radicals present before they do any harm, thus removing all the waste products. They act as a shield to help combat and defend cell damage.
Polyphenols are known to be very rich in antioxidants, and their consumption reduces oxidative stress in the body.
2. Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Inflammation is a result of oxidative stress, which occurs when the reactive oxygen species in the cells and tissues are in abundance and not completely taken care of by the antioxidants. Polyphenols exhibit anti-inflammatory properties because of their scavenging activities that regulate the functioning of inflammatory cells.
As a result of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, polyphenols are known to –
- Reduce the risk of Cardiovascular disease
- Prevent blood clots
- Prevent the development of cancer
- Promote healthy digestion
- Improve brain activity
The polyphenol market, including its utilization in the food and beverage sector, is estimated to reach a whopping 1.1 Billion USD by 2022.
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Foods Rich in Polyphenols
Polyphenols are a type of water-soluble compound found mainly in plants and vegetables. Our body can benefit at large from the consumption of a diverse range of polyphenol-rich fruits and vegetables.
Listed below are the food groups and sources of food that contain polyphenols –
Sources of polyphenols
|Fruits||Apple, orange, grapefruit, pomegranate, peaches, grapes, plum, apricot
Berries – blueberry, cranberry, strawberry, blackberry, cherries, blackcurrant
|Vegetables||Onion, shallot, potato, carrot, black olive, green olive, asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, spinach|
|Seeds and nuts||Seeds – flax, sunflower, pumpkin
Nuts – walnut, chestnut, hazelnut, almond, pecan, walnut
|Legume||White beans, black beans, soybean, kidney bean, french beans|
|Whole grain||Rye, barley, oats, whole grain wheat|
|Spices and herbs||Spices – star anise, clove, cumin, cinnamon, ginger
Herbs – oregano, peppermint, sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley
|Oils||Extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil|
|Beverages||Tea, coffee, red wine, cocoa|
Most of the sources of polyphenols mentioned above are easily accessible and thus can be incorporated into one’s diet.
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Tannins are a type of polyphenol that is known for its use in ink and pigments. It has also been used for tanning leather since ancient times, hence the name.
Risk and Side Effects
Experimental studies(2) indicate the side effects and risks of consuming polyphenols. Here’s an overview of these adverse effects –
- Consumption of polyphenols may inhibit iron absorption, thus causing iron deficiency.
- Polyphenols with a high amount of lectins may cause digestive issues since lectins are difficult to break down.
- Polyphenols may interact with some pharmaceutical products and affect their functioning.
It is important to consider that the above is based on experimental studies, and the dosage of polyphenols administered for experiments is generally much higher than the actual consumption by you in your day-to-day life.
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Polyphenols carry out a similar defense mechanism in our bodies as they perform in nature. They are responsible for shielding the plants from pathogens. In our body, they protect us from free radical cells that may lead to degeneration and damage of cells and harm the body if left unattended.
There are various sources of polyphenols, such as fruits, berries, and beverages like tea and coffee that we consume daily. All these are readily available, and by including them in our daily diet, we can definitely achieve a healthier body.
1. What Fruits and Vegetables Are Rich in Polyphenols?
Most fruits and vegetables are great sources of polyphenols, as they are phytonutrients found mostly in plants. Onions, cabbage, berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries) are some examples of polyphenol-rich foods.
2. Do Polyphenols Help You Lose Weight?
Yes, studies(3) suggest that a diet abundant in polyphenols has the ability to improve the body’s metabolism rate, eventually leading to weight loss.
3. What Foods Are High in Polyphenols and Low in Lectins?
Lectins are a group of proteins that attach themselves to carbohydrates, making it difficult to break them down in the gut. However, once cooked or processed, they break down and don’t have any adverse effects on your health. Foods that are high in polyphenols and low in lectins are
- Cocoa powder
- Dark chocolate
- Star Anise
- Black elderberry