Polyphenols are a class of chemicals found naturally in plants, including fruits, veggies, herbs and spices, teas, cocoa, and even wine.
These chemicals are designed to protect plants from threats, like UV radiation and insects. Not surprisingly, they help protect your health as well. This is mainly due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power.
Can an apple a day really keep the doctor away? How about red wine and chocolate? They might! All three contain compounds called polyphenols — plant compounds with very strong antioxidant properties that are quite beneficial to your health.
So pour that glass of wine and chop up an apple, here’s what polyphenol foods can do for you.
There are hundreds of foods that contain polyphenols in some form. Here are some simple foods to add to your plate to get some polyphenol goodness.
Apples contain a whole bunch of polyphenols (136 milligrams of polyphenols, to be exact).
How to eat ‘em
Eating apples the old fashioned way is best (wash and eat them raw). Processing messes with the polyphenol content so skip the fruit snacks and go for the real thing. It’s especially important to eat the skin to get those polyphenols.
If foods could wear accessories, blueberries would wear a crown. Berries in general are loaded with polyphenols via antioxidants.
The polyphenols in blueberries can help protect your nervous system from damage. And, they may enhance cognitive functioning and help prevent cardiovascular disease by way of their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
3) Black and green tea
Both green and black teas contain polyphenols in the form of flavonoids.
Both are great for heart health and reducing LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind) and triglyceride levels (also bad at high levels). EGCG in particular may help you feel more calm, less fatigued, and even help prevent cancer cell growth and Alzheimer’s disease.
Tea catechins have also proven to be particularly beneficial to help keep blood sugar levels in check. The theaflavins in black tea have also been found to help prevent and treat asthma and chronic lung disease.
4) Black beans
Black beans are a great source of polyphenols. In addition to being a rich source of nutrients like protein and fiber, they are packed with antioxidants and may help keep blood sugar levels under control.
Soybeans are full of isoflavones, a type of flavonoid.
They’re the compounds that give soy its antioxidant muscle, scavenging free radicals and reducing inflammation (you go, soybeans).
6) Red wine
Resveratrol (found in red wine) has proven to be protective from a number of chronic health conditions, including diabetes and heart disease.
Per general health recommendations, one to two drinks per day (without binge drinking!) may help protect against coronary disease and stroke.
Resveratrol may also be beneficial in the prevention of blood clots by making platelets less likely to stick together and form a clot. Plus, studies show resveratrol can improve insulin sensitivity and regulate glucose absorption in the gut.
This is not a recommendation to down a bottle of Pinot Noir every night, but a few glasses a week could do your health some good.
This veggie is full of flavonoids like quercetin, which is believed to help prevent certain types of cancer and coronary heart disease.
How to eat ‘em
Asparagus comes in different colors like green, white, or purple. But, if you’re looking for the most antioxidant rich variety, it’s green all the way.
8) Extra virgin olive oil
Unlike regular olive oil, EVOO is made of cold-pressedolives (not a mix with processed oils) that helps you reap its natural benefits.
Spinach is packed with powerful antioxidants like vitamins A and C, fiber and even some protein.
Ellagitannins have been studied for their potential role to reduce the risk of certain diseases including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases.
How to eat ‘em
Eat walnuts like candy (just not actually candied) or throw them on a salad. Have you tried walnut butter yet?!
If you’re not ready to invest in a jar of the stuff sight untasted, throw some walnuts in a food processor and make your own (that ish is delish 🤤).
11) Cocoa and dark chocolate
And, it’s particularly beneficial for your ticker by helping to prevent heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
Studies have shown cinnamon also helps to reduce blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Foods rich in polyphenols are safe to eat for most people (unless you have an existing allergy or intolerance). Supplements are available that provide polyphenols, but they are a whole different ball game.
Some supplement brands recommend doses 100 times higher than what is typically consumed through foods.
Risks associated with high-dose polyphenol supplements include:
- damage to the liver and kidneys
- inhibiting thyroid function
- acting as anti-nutrients (blocking absorption of important nutrients we need)
- potential medication interactions
- potential carcinogenic effects
Foods rich in polyphenols are fantastic for health and should be included as part of a balanced, healthy diet.
The best way to reap the rewards of these nutrition gems is through whole foods, hands down.
There is no scientific consensus around appropriate dosing for these compounds as of yet, so supplements should be considered with caution.
The supplement industry remains unregulated, and some products may provide excessive amounts of polyphenols, potentially causing harm.
If you’re thinking about trying a polyphenol supplement, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider or pharmacist first.