Experts define polyphenols as a family of chemical compounds found naturally and abundantly in plant food sources. Known as Phytochemicals, they possess antioxidant properties and are produced by plants for self-protection. An antioxidant is a substance that scavenges and inhibits the damage caused by free radicals in your body. Other food-based antioxidants are carotenoids and Allyl sulfides.

Exploring polyphenols further

Chemically, polyphenols are macro molecules composed of several phenol groups. More than 4000 bioactive compounds belong to the polyphenol group and they are extensively distributed in plants and fruits. Polyphenol food sources are among nature’s great tasting foods. Being in different categories, they have differing levels of polyphenol bioactive compounds.

How you store and prepare foods that contain these macro molecules greatly determines their polyphenol content. Fresh vegetables and fruits generally contain higher polyphenol amounts compared to those stored for some time.

Typically, foods high in polyphenols contain complex combinations of the nutrient with plants outer layers having higher levels than inner ones. Peeling these types of foods lowers their nutrient level. Though cooking lowers the level as well, it also enhances the nutrient’s bioavailability increasing its absorbability.

Categories of Polyphenols

Foods containing polyphenols can be broadly categorized into groups based on the number of phenol structures and their arrangement within the molecule. This also determines the distinct chemical properties and behavior of particular polyphenols. Polyphenols foods belong to 4 major categories:

1. Flavonoids

Flavonoids are both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. In nature, they are widely distributed, with specific polyphenols food sources being rich in at least one flavonoids subclass. The subclasses are as follows:

Anthocyanins and anthocyanidins

polyphenols

They are present in vegetables and fruits especially berries, grape seed extract, and grapes. They are responsible for the pink, blue and purple colors seen in particular fruits and vegetables.

Flavanols or Catechins

polyphenols

They are commonly found in tea but can also be found in Grape seeds and cocoa beans

Isoflavones

Isoflavones are found in soy

Flavones

They are found in herbs, with Chamomile being a good source

Flavonols

Polyphenols foods rich in Flavonols include apples, onions, broccoli, red wine, tea, and Ginkgo-Biloba.

Flavanones

Are commonly found in citrus fruits and juices

2. Stilbenes

The most renowned stilbenes is Resveratrol especially for its anti-aging and anti-cancer properties. Stilbenes food sources include red wine, nuts and curcumin spice. Examples of polyphenols supplements include Resveratrol supplements.

3. Lignans

Whole grain cereals and nuts make up this polyphenol group. Specific foods high in polyphenols Lignans are flaxseeds, algae, fruits, legumes, and particular vegetables.

4. Phenolic acids

These are polyphenols in coffee and some tea. They are also found in red fruits, onions, cereals, radishes, and spices. Other food sources include cinnamon, kiwifruits, blueberries, apples, plums and cherries.

11 Benefits of Polyphenols

There are several types of polyphenols available and most polyphenol abundant foods are found scattered in natural, unprocessed plant foods. The best way to obtain these phytochemicals is to consume a healthy balanced diet achieved by consuming a diversity of foods. Foods that contain these chemical compounds offer numerous health benefits to your body. They…

  • Are the most abundant antioxidants in the human diet
  • Are involved in the prevention of chronic diseases
  • Have anti-inflammatory properties and anti-microbial activity.
  • Lower cholesterol levels and enhance artery (endothelial) function
  • Have anti-carcinogenic properties, are anti-tumor, playing a role in cancer prevention
  • Lower and stabilize blood sugar when a diet high in polyphenols foods is consumed
  • Take part in enhancing bone mass, thereby reducing risk of age-related bone loss.
  • Affect cell proliferation and transcription, modulating enzyme activity and signaling transduction
  • Reduce risk of heart attack, improve blood pressure, prevent platelet aggregation and inhibit accumulation of arterial plaque
  • Help to maintain health and wellness, control aging rate, leading to an increased life span
  • Increase metabolic rate, raising energy expenditure which results in weight loss

How about Polyphenols Supplements?

Polyphenol Supplements can provide a few of the nutrient’s benefits if taken correctly. Some of these supplements being consumed include flax seed, isoflavone-rich soy, and polyphenol-rich green tea. Olive pulp, grape skin and grape seeds extracts have been used to manufacture these supplements. 

Companies recommendations on consumption of polyphenols supplements vary greatly. Some advice 50 mg/d isoflavones, 100–300 mg/d of grape seed extracts which are within acceptable ranges. Other supplement manufacturers have been known to recommend much higher intakes than those currently linked to the human diet.

Though some supplements appear safe when isolated from plants, the extraction method applied in production can greatly influence the kind of compounds ingested and therefore the product safety. Taking large amounts of supplements is neither advisable nor safe even when they are made from natural ingredients.

Here are some side effects that may arise from the consumption of polyphenols supplements in large amounts:

  • If you have little iron body stores, it can result in iron depletion
  • The supplements can disrupt your thyroid hormone metabolism
  • An interaction can occur between the supplements and pharmaceutical drugs, enhancing the drugs biologic effects

If you haven’t yet been on the polyphenols bandwagon, it’s about time you joined because the benefits are plenty. Consume a well-balanced and healthy diet with foods high in polyphenols to reduce your need for the supplements. If you do opt for the supplements, purchase them from a reputable company and read the labels well.

Foods High in Polyphenols List

Vegetables

Fruit

Nuts, Legumes and seeds

Artichokes

Apples

Cashew nuts

Red cabbage

Berries (all types)

Walnuts

Broccoli

Applesauce

Chick peas

Celery

Cherries

Flax seeds

Eggplant

Apricots

Lentils

Corn

Citrus: oranges, limes tangerines, and lemon.

Beans (red kidney, black-eyed peas,  black and pinto beans)

Garlic

Red or black currants

Fava beans

Aubergine (Eggplant)

Kiwi

Hazelnuts

Dark green vegetables

Dates

Sunflower seeds

Leeks

Cranberries

Nut butters

Onions

Purple or red grapes

Snap beans

Parsnips

Nectarines

Pecans

Rutabagas

Pears

Pumpkin seeds

Peppers

Mangoes

Pichachios

Scallions

Peaches

Peanuts

Peas

Plums

Shallots

Pomegranates

Sweet potatoes

Prunes

Tomatoes

Quinces

Spinach

Raisins

Watercress

Rhubarb

References

  1. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/12/14/polyphenols-benefits.aspx
  2. http://www.raysahelian.com/polyphenols.html
  3. http://www.genesmart.com/100161/high-polyphenols-foods/
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Author: Self Healing Institute

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