Look no further than this blog post to discover the health benefits and reasons why people are eating food with polyphenols. Food With Polyphenols List. Numerous studies have shown that polyphenols, including curcumin, quercetin, and resveratrol, exhibit multiple health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin is a flavonoid polyphenol that is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric.
Food With Polyphenols List
Most plant-based foods contain polyphenols, like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. It’s easy to get enough in your diet to boost your health, but some sources are more nutritious than others.
These eight foods have the highest polyphenol content per serving in addition to their other essential nutrients.
Berries are low in calories and high in vitamin C, fiber, and polyphenols, making them an easy addition to any diet. Chokeberries and elderberries have the highest amounts, with 1,123 and 870 milligrams of polyphenols per half-cup serving, respectively. Many other common berries have a high content per half-cup as well, including:
- Blueberries with 535 milligrams
- Blackcurrant with 485 milligrams
- Blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries with about 160 milligrams
- Herbs and Spices
To boost your meal with polyphenols, look no further than your spice cabinet. Along with their polyphenol content, dried herbs and spices often contain a range of nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Seasonings highest in polyphenols include:
- Cloves with 542 milligrams per ounce
- Peppermint with 427 milligrams per ounce
- Star anise with 195 milligrams per ounceOregano, celery seed, sage, rosemary, and thyme also have more than 30 milligrams for the same serving.
- Cocoa Powder
While you should limit your sugar intake, cocoa powder is a potent polyphenol source with 516 milligrams per tablespoon. Heating and processing cocoa powder to make chocolate products can reduce this content, however. For example, dark chocolate has 249 milligrams per tablespoon, while milk chocolate has just 35 milligrams.
Nuts are an easy way to add fiber, protein, and essential fatty acids to your diet, though because they’re high in calories you should moderate your portions. Most nuts contain polyphenols, but chestnuts come out on top with 347 milligrams per ounce — about three nuts. Other good choices include hazelnuts and pecans with 140 milligrams and almonds with 53 milligrams for a one-ounce serving.
Flaxseeds are sometimes used to improve digestion and relieve constipation. Along with their high fiber content, they also have 229 milligrams of polyphenols per tablespoon. You can add flaxseeds to cereal, sandwiches, and salads, or bake them into cookies and breads.
Experts recommend we eat 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables per day. Because most vegetables contain polyphenols, getting enough in your diet helps you benefit from these antioxidants’ health effects. Some vegetables highest in polyphenols include:
- 260 milligrams in a small artichoke
- 168 milligrams in a small red onion
- 40 grams in a cup of fresh spinach or shallots
Olives are rich in vitamin E, fatty acids, and polyphenols. Twenty grams of black olives — about five olives — has 113 milligrams of polyphenols, while the same serving of green olives contains 70 milligrams.
- Coffee and Tea
If you start your day with a cup of coffee or tea, you’re already adding polyphenols to your diet. Twenty grams of coffee, or roughly the amount to make one brewed cup, contains about 35 milligrams of polyphenols. We consume teas like black, green, or ginger in smaller amounts, but a cup can still add some polyphenols to your diet.
Why You Need Polyphenols
A lack of polyphenols isn’t associated with specific side effects. But they’re regarded as “lifespan essentials” for their potential to reduce your risk of chronic diseases.
Studies show that people who have polyphenol-rich diets — consuming more than 650 milligrams per day — have lower death risks than those who get less than 500 milligrams per day.
Polyphenols help protect your body by:
Improving Heart Health
Research shows polyphenols can help manage blood pressure levels and keep your blood vessels healthy and flexible, promoting good circulation. They also help reduce chronic inflammation, another risk factor for heart disease.
Lowering Your Diabetes Risk
Polyphenols can reduce and help control your blood sugar levels. They also stimulate your body’s release of insulin, a hormone that signals your body to use sugars efficiently. These effects can lower your insulin resistance — a condition where your body doesn’t respond properly to the hormone.
Maintaining low insulin resistance and healthy blood sugar levels reduces your risk of conditions like obesity and diabetes.
Polyphenols’ antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects could lower your risk of cancer. Studies show that polyphenols may even block tumor growth and kill active cancer cells.
Research shows that polyphenols can activate your immune system to fight off infection and disease. Polyphenols also promote good bacteria growth in your gut and limit harmful bacteria.
This effect supports good digestion, but a healthy balance of bacteria is also essential to strong immune system function.
13 Tasty Foods High in Polyphenols to Stock Up On
If you’re trying to eat healthier, enriching your diet with foods high in polyphenols is a good place to start. Polyphenols are naturally occurring chemical compounds that boast antioxidant properties.
Research has shown that diets rich in foods containing polyphenols are linked to lower rates of heart diseases, cancer, neurodegenerative disease and diabetes, per the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. What’s more, foods high in antioxidants like polyphenols may also guard your skin from free radical damage, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
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Here are a few common types of polyphenols, per the University of Nebraska Lincoln:
- Phenolic acid
What Are Phenols?
The term phenol refers to a large group of chemical compounds found in plants. These chemicals help to protect the plant from bacterial and fungal infections and UV radiation damage, per an October 2010 study in Molecules. Phenols in food are often in the form of polyphenols.
Below, find a list of foods high in polyphenols based on a widely cited November 2020 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
In this comprehensive report, researchers identified the 100 richest dietary sources of polyphenols. They measured polyphenols in milligrams per 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of each food, which is how you’ll see polyphenol content represented in this list.
But, keep in mind that this is just a way to measure the concentration of polyphenols in given foods. You’d likely only have a gram or two of seasonings like cloves at a given meal, but you’ll easily eat more than 100 grams of blueberries or strawberries in a serving.
How Many Polyphenols Do You Need Per Day?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans do not specify a Daily Value (DV) for polyphenols. That said, a diet rich in antioxidant polyphenols is linked to longevity, according to a September 2013 study in The Journal of Nutrition. Eating a wide variety of plant-based foods will help you get plenty of polyphenols.
1. Cloves: 15,188 mg
Cloves make a delicious and polyphenol-packed seasoning for baked desserts, chai lattes and rice dishes.
Image Credit: deeaf/iStock/GettyImages
Seasonings like cloves have the highest concentration of polyphenols, with 15,188 milligrams per 100 grams (though you’d likely only have about a teaspoon, or 2 grams, in a given dish). Cloves contain high amounts of the phenolic flavor eugenol, per the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study.
Eugenol is also known as clove oil, which has been touted as useful for toothache, cleaning teeth and freshening breath, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). However, it’s always best to get your antioxidants from foods rather than supplements: High doses of clove oil can cause severe liver injury.
Other seasonings high in polyphenols include dried peppermint, star anise, Mexican oregano and celery seed.
2. Dark Chocolate: 1,664 mg
Antioxidant-rich dark chocolate has 1,664 milligrams of polyphenols per 100 grams. The serving size of chocolate is typically 28 grams (1 ounce).
Most of the polyphenols in dark chocolate and cocoa are flavonols, per an April 2020 study in The FASEB Journal. Eating dark chocolate is tied to lower blood pressure, improved insulin sensitivity, decreased total blood cholesterol (particularly “bad” LDL cholesterol) and improved vascular inflammation.
Balance is key, though: One ounce of dark chocolate contains 170 calories and 6.8 grams of sugar, or 14 percent of the DV. Eating too much dark chocolate could cause you to overload on calories and sugar, potentially leading to weight gain, so try sticking to one square a day.
3. Flaxseed Meal: 1,528 mg
Flaxseed is highly concentrated in polyphenols, with 1,528 milligrams per 100 grams. In particular, it is high in the lignan secoisolariciresinol, per the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study. A serving size of ground flaxseed is 1 tablespoon, or 7 grams.
Lignans have a steroid-like chemical structure and are known as phytoestrogens. They have traditionally been linked to health benefits such as a lowered risk of heart disease, menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis and breast cancer, per a March 2019 review in the journal Molecules.
Experts recommend flaxseed meal (ground flaxseed) over whole flaxseed because it is easier to digest and your body will absorb more nutrients from it, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Should You Look for Foods High In Polyphenols but Low in Lectins?
Lectins are naturally occurring proteins found in many plant foods, including beans, peanuts, tomatoes, lentils, eggplant, wheat and other grains, per the Mayo Clinic.
Some people think avoiding lectins helps promote weight loss or cure health problems, but no scientific evidence exists to support these claims. While lectins in certain raw foods (like beans) have the potential to be harmful, you typically wouldn’t eat enough of them to cause concern. But some people with gastrointestinal problems may avoid foods with lectins because they may irritate digestive issues like IBS, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
4. Chestnuts: 1,215 mg
Chestnuts — with 1,215 milligrams of polyphenols per 100 grams — are rich in ellagitannins, polyphenols that have strong potential for preventing or even treating various types of cancer, per a May 2016 study in the journal Toxins.
Plus, 1 ounce of chestnuts (28 grams) contains 13 percent of the DV for the antioxidant vitamin C. People between the ages of 55 and 69 who ate at least 10 grams of tree nuts or peanuts (about 1/2 handful) every day had a lower risk of death from major causes like respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes and heart disease than those who did not eat nuts or peanuts, per a May 2015 study in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
5. Wild Blueberries: 836 mg
Add wild blueberries to your morning smoothie or bake them into muffins and pancakes.
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Wild blueberries have an even higher concentration of polyphenols (836 milligrams per 100 grams) than conventional blueberries (560 milligrams per 100 grams), according to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study.
Blueberries are especially high in anthocyanins, a type of polyphenol responsible for the red, purple and blue colors in fruits and vegetables, per an August 2017 study in Food & Nutrition Research.
Research shows that anthocyanins are linked to lower blood pressure, reduced cancer cell growth, diabetes prevention, improved vision and a lower risk of heart disease, per an October 2015 report in the Journal of Food Processing & Technology. Try them in these healthy blueberry breakfast recipes.
To pick fruits with the highest level of phenols, aim for the berry family. Other fruits to reach for are citrus varieties, apples, peaches, apricots, plums, pears, grapes and cherries.
When selecting fruits based on phenol content, note that the darker the fruit, the greater the phenol content. By eating the seeds and skins, you get the most phenols from plant foods.
6. Black Olives: 569 mg
Black and green olives are the richest vegetable sources of polyphenols (569 milligrams per 100 grams), particularly tyrosols, per the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study. Black olives have even more polyphenols than green olives, which pack 346 milligrams of polyphenols per 100 grams.
Tyrosols, which are also found in wine, may play a role in the prevention of certain diseases, including heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, per a March 2016 study in Drug Metabolism Reviews.
The average serving size is about five black olives (15 grams), which delivers only 40 calories. Try them in these healthy olive recipes.
7. Hazelnuts: 495 mg
Polyphenol-rich hazelnuts — with 495 milligrams per 100 grams — are a particularly good source of proanthocyanidins, another type of polyphenol with antioxidant activity, according to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study.
Some research shows that proanthocyanidins may strengthen capillaries and even lower blood pressure in people with mildly elevated blood pressure, per Kaiser Permanente.
Hazelnuts also offer 4.2 grams of protein and 2.8 grams of fiber per ounce (28 grams).
8. Pecans: 493 mg
Like hazelnuts, polyphenol-rich pecans — with 493 milligrams per 100 grams — are high in proanthocyanidins. One ounce (28 grams) of pecans also contains 56 percent of the DV for the antioxidant manganese.
Manganese is a mineral that helps your body make energy, protect your cells from damage as well as maintain healthy bones, reproduction, blood clotting and a strong immune system, per the NIH.
9. Plums: 377 mg
Plums are delicious as a snack on their own, but you can also add them to salads or dip slices into yogurt for a polyphenol boost.
Image Credit: Sanny11/iStock/GettyImages
Dark-colored fruits and berries tend to have the highest concentrations of polyphenols. Plums, with 377 milligrams per 100 grams, are no exception. Black plum peel extract has nine phenolic compounds, nearly a quarter of which are anthocyanins, per a September 2019 study in Food Hydrocolloids.
One plum (66 grams) contains 7 percent of the DV for vitamin C. Dried plums (prunes) are also an antioxidant-rich food that can make a healthy snack in moderation.
10. Sweet Cherries: 274 mg
Sweet cherries are rich in polyphenols with 274 milligrams per 100 grams. Cherries are high in flavonoids, a type of polyphenol that can help guard against oxidative stress, inflammation and endothelial dysfunction (a type of non-obstructive coronary artery disease), all of which is involved in heart disease, according to a February 2020 review in the journal Foods.
One cup of sweet cherries (140 grams) also contains 10 percent of the DV for vitamin C. Try them in these savory cherry recipes.
11. Blackberries: 260 mg
Like other berries, blackberries — with 260 milligrams of polyphenols per 100 grams — are rich in anthocyanins, per the Journal of Zhejiang University Science.
Berries in general are one of the most delicious and versatile sources of antioxidants. Blackberries have been less cultivated than blueberries, so what we eat today is closer to the fruit that once existed in the wild, per Johns Hopkins Medicine.
One cup of blackberries (144 grams) also contains 40 percent of the DV for manganese, 34 percent of the DV for vitamin C and 11 percent of the DV for vitamin E (another antioxidant) — plus 7.6 grams of heart-healthy fiber.
12. Strawberries: 235 mg
Strawberries are lower on this list than other berries, but they’re still packed with polyphenols with 235 milligrams per 100 grams, per the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study. They contain a wide variety of polyphenols, including anthocyanins, per the Journal of Zhejiang University Science study.
One cup of strawberries (166 grams) contains 108 percent of the DV for vitamin C and 28 percent of the DV for selenium as well as 3.3 grams of fiber. Try them in these strawberry breakfast recipe ideas.
13. Coffee: 214 mg
You can get phenols from coffee — just hold the sugar to get the most health benefits.
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Although high-phenol coffee doesn’t have as many polyphenols as the other foods on this list, it has the highest content per serving (408 milligrams per 6.7-ounce cup) of any other drink in the report.
Black tea and green tea are farther down the list, with 197 and 173 milligrams for the same-size serving, respectively.
Polyphenols: health benefits, dietary sources and bioavailability
In the past 30 or so years researchers and food manufacturers have become increasingly interested in a certain type of antioxidant, known as polyphenols, and the role that they play in the body. The main reason for this interest stems from the antioxidant properties of polyphenols, their great abundance in our diet, and their probable role, backed up by much research, in the prevention of various diseases associated with oxidative stress, such as cancer and cardiovascular and neuro-degenerative diseases.
What are Polyphenols?
Polyphenols are phytochemicals, meaning compounds found abundantly in natural plant food sources, that have antioxidant properties. Based on their chemical structure, they are classified as flavonoids or non-flavonoids. Flavonoids form the largest group of over 9000 compounds. They are found in foods such as tea, wine, chocolates, fruits, vegetables, and extra virgin olive oil.
Polyphenols are now widely considered to play an important role in maintaining health and well-being throughout the body, mainly as a result of their antioxidant activity. Antioxidants as a group help protect the cells in the body from free radical damage, thereby controlling the rate at which we age.
During energy production in the mitochondria some oxygen molecules are converted to dangerous free radicals called reactive oxidative species (ROS). Cells are equipped with ROS eliminating antioxidant enzymes to neutralise any ROS. But if free radical production exceeds the cell’s natural production of antioxidants, ROS can cause oxidative damage to the vital components of our cells, which include proteins, lipids (fats) and DNA.
Overproduction of free radicals can also lead to activation of pro-inflammatory transcription factors (eg Nuclear Factor kappa-B) and increase inflammatory cytokines. Oxidative damage and inflammation are key factors in the development of various degenerative diseases such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and autoimmune diseases. On the other hand, a certain level of free radicals is useful in the body, for example playing a role in the immune system.
Antioxidant properties – what are antioxidants?
An antioxidant is a chemical that helps to protect against cell damage by counteracting the destructive action of highly reactive free radical molecules.
Our bodies do produce antioxidants, for example substances such as glutathione and coenzyme Q10 are important antioxidants. However, a good dietary intake is also important.
The body’s natural production of antioxidants declines as we age so it becomes even more important to source them from your diet. Antioxidants are considered to be one of the most important aspects of nutrition for overall well-being.
Benefits of Polyphenols
Research has shown polyphenols are beneficial in a number of chronic diseases, for example:
Brain Health: Research attests to the fact that polyphenols may actually help to lower the risk of neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, due to their role in combating oxidative stress.
Cardiovascular health: Polyphenols that are found in cocoa have been shown play a role in reducing cardiovascular stress through the inhibition of LDL cholesterol oxidation. These compounds also increase the vasodilation of blood vessels to promote circulation. It is important to bear in mind that organic dark chocolate, 72% cacao and above, is where the benefits have been found – so check this on the label before purchasing for this purpose.
Type 2 Diabetes: Polyphenols have been found to play a role in lowering inflammation in the body, reducing insulin resistance and also stabilising blood sugar and fat metabolism.
Cancer: Multiple studies have demonstrated the activity of polyphenols in the prevention of cancer. The researchers believe that the antioxidant behaviour of polyphenols help to protect DNA from free radical damage, which can trigger the development of cancer. Polyphenols also reverse the markers in DNA that are considered to increase tumour growth.
Osteoporosis: This is a condition characterised by the structural deterioration of bone tissue which in turn leads to an increase in bone fragility and increased susceptibility to bone fractures. Research suggest that Polyphenols, once again due to their antioxidant activity, have a beneficial effect on bone metabolism and reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis.
“A compound found in green tea, may prove effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis, as its anti-inflammatory action is expressed without blocking other critical cellular functions, US researchers have shown.
The phytochemical, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), may well form a natural alternative to current drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. These therapies are expensive, immunosuppressive and sometimes unsuitable for long-term use.”
This compound (EGCG) is one of the four primary polyphenols found in fresh tea leaves.
Types of Polyphenols
Polyphenols are divided into four categories and are found in a variety of different foods:
These are the most well-known and largest group of polyphenols, eg quercetin. They are divided into a number of subgroups according to their structural differences (flavones, dihydroflavonols, flavonols, flavan-3-ols, flavanols, anthocyanidins, isoflavones and proanthocyanidins). They are generally found in low concentrations and the richest sources are onions, broccoli, blueberries, kale, red wine and tea.
These are found only in very low quantities in the human diet. They include resveratrol, which is considered to have anti-carcinogenic effects. However, this is only found in very low quantities in red wine and grapes so any beneficial effect at this level is minimal.
The richest dietary source of lignans is linseeds and other cereals, grains, fruits and certain vegetables.
There are two distinct classes of phenolic acids: derivatives of benzoic acid and derivatives of cinnamic acid of which tea, certain red fruits, black radish and onions are sources. However, again only at very low levels.
The Best Sources of Polyphenols
Flavonoids are the most well-known polyphenol group that, as mentioned above, are found in red wine, dark chocolate, green tea and various fruits and vegetables.
To benefit from polyphenol consumption it is essential to eat a wide variety of foods that are rich in them; namely fruits, vegetables and seeds, which are well recorded as being among the richest sources.
Choosing foods on a daily basis that represent a full range of colours – green, purple, red, orange and yellow – and aiming for half a plate of vegetables at both lunch and supper.
Bioavailability, absorption and metabolism
However, as is the issue with many nutrients, there is the problem of bioavailability – how well your body can absorb the nutrients contained in the food. In the case of polyphenols the body recognises them as xenobiotics (ie a foreign substance) and their bioavailability is fairly low in comparison to micro and macro-nutrients.
Indeed, as research suggests: “The polyphenols that are the most common in the human diet are not necessarily the most active within the body, either because they have a lower intrinsic activity or because they are poorly absorbed from the intestine, highly metabolized, or rapidly eliminated.”
As polyphenols are fat soluble, absorption can be increased by eating polyphenol rich foods alongside healthy fats (ie avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, oily fish – most of these foods also contain polyphenols!). Some are best cooked, for example, the absorption of beta-carotene in carrots and lycopene in tomatoes is improved with cooking.
Only a small proportion of polyphenols are absorbed in the small intestine (estimated to be about 5-10%), others reach the large intestine almost unchanged. The remaining 90-95% may accumulate in the large intestinal lumen where they are subjected to the enzymatic activity of the gut microbial community. The colonic microbiota play an important role in breaking down the original polyphenolic structures into a series of low molecular weight phenolic metabolites which are then absorbed.
Polyphenols and the Gut Microbiome
As discussed above the gut bacteria have an important role in modulating the bioavailability of polyphenols. The relation of the gut microbiota is two-way and polyphenols have a prebiotic effect increasing the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Much of the research into this area has so far been conducted on green tea which has been shown to increase good bacteria in the gut and reduce undesirable bacteria.
Around 100 trillion bacteria make up the microbiome in the gut and it has become very clear that the health of your microbiome is absolutely critical to overall health; both mental and physical.
Eye Cyt is a high potency antioxidant formula, containing a comprehensive range of nutrients relevant for eye health. The formula contains a powerful mix of carotenoids and flavonoids comprising natural vitamin E, lutein (providing Zeaxanthin), bilberry extract and grape seed extract (providing polyphenols).
Phytoshield is a very potent and powerful phyto-antioxidant nutrient formula, containing high levels of flavonoids and carotenoids, as well as green tea extract (95% polyphenols)
A natural phyto-nutrient and herbal complex containing curcumin from turmeric, gingerols from ginger root and piperine from pepper.
A source of natural isoflavones providing daidzein, glycitein and genistein.
Honey Bee Propolis
A sticky resin gathered by bees from leaf buds, the bark of trees and other botanical sources. Propolis is used by bees for its natural antibiotic, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. Propolis contains 180 natural compounds including flavonoids and phenolics which account for much of its biologic activity.