What Are They?
As we learn more about “polyphenols 101: what are they and what do they do?” we need to know where they come from! Where can we find these necessary micronutrients? What can we do to make sure that our body receives doses of them regularly? Remember that vitamins and minerals cannot be made by the body so we need to consume them through our nutrition or supplementation (which we will go into more detail on later). Polyphenols are most commonly found in foods that are plant-based. They are often responsible for the color of fruits and vegetables! What foods contain polyphenols? Cloves – one of the highest on the list for being rich in polyphenols with over 15,000 mg
Cocoa powder and dark chocolate – both were in the top ten for foods containing high levels of polyphenols with over 3,000 mg and 1,600 mg respectively.
Berries – blueberries (560 mg), elderberries (1,359 mg), blackberries (260 mg), strawberries (235 mg), and raspberries (215 mg). The berry with the highest levels is black chokeberry coming in at more than 1,700 mg.
Artichokes (260 mg)
Chicory (166-235 mg)
Red onions (168 mg)
Spinach (119 mg)
Flaxseed meal (over 1,500 mg)
Black currants (758 mg)
Plums (377 mg)
Sweet cherries (274 mg)
Apples (136 mg)
Beans – particularly black beans and white beans have higher levels of polyphenols both containing more than 50 mg.
Nuts – hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds show levels of polyphenols regardless of if they are raw or roasted. Walnuts come in lower at 28 mg with the highest being pecans and hazelnuts with both coming in at nearly 500 mg.
Soy – including tempeh, flour, tofu, yogurt, and sprouts. Soy flour comes in the highest at 466 mg versus the lowest being sprouts with only 15 mg.
Other seasonings – dried peppermint and star anise both contain high levels, nearly 12,000 mg and 5,500 mg respectively.
Tea – both black and green but try to stick to unsweetened varieties. These come in at approximately 80-100 mg.
Red wine –contains antioxidants because of the polyphenols. Consume with care due to alcohol content. For 100 mL of wine, there are just over 100 mg of polyphenols.
Note: the number of polyphenols listed for each item on this list is specific to a serving of 100 grams of that food.
A couple of interesting facts about fruits and polyphenol content:
- is that for the most part, fruits contain more polyphenols that vegetables.
- many of these foods contain polyphenols in their outer layer or skin so if possible, eat the fruit or vegetable fully intact (after washing, of course).
- the polyphenols found in fruits are highest before they are fully ripened. As the fruit ripens (i.e. ages), the polyphenol activity decreases.
- freeze-drying fruit maintains 80% of the antioxidants which includes the polyphenols when comparing to just chilling it.
We believe that this is a pretty good list of foods. Using this list, you canchoose to incorporate ones into your diet that will help increase your consumption of polyphenols. Next, we will explore how they work and discuss the possibility of supplementing.
How Do They Work?
We’ve discussed that the body needs micronutrients, but let’s dig into this a little further. This will help us to better understand the need for polyphenols. Micronutrients consist of vitamins and minerals. Vitamins can be broken down by air, acid, or heat. They are organic compounds that are made by animals and plants. Minerals are inorganic and cannot be broken down. They can be found in water or soil. The body has the ability to absorb both of these once they are consumed through nutrition. Each vitamin and mineral has a very specific role within the body. Overall, micronutrients are connected to just about every single process within the body. A big key to getting the necessary vitamins and minerals is to consume a wide variety of foods including fruits and vegetables.
We’re sure you already know that there are many supplements available today. You might struggle wondering how to you decide which ones to invest in? How do you figure out which ones your body needs? While we suggest that you try to consume polyphenols through your food, supplements are available. The few risks that are related to polyphenols are most strongly connected to supplements. Some of these risks include carcinogenic effects, thyroid issues, interactions with medications including prescriptions, and more. Just a recommendation to be aware of what is in the supplement you are taking. We also think you might want to evaluate if it is possible to find more foods to provide your body with polyphenols.
As always, be careful of sourcing and quality when it comes to supplements. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not always regular supplements. Just like anything else you put into your body; we highly recommend that you research any supplements you’re considering. You want to actually get the benefits of the supplement… there’s a reason you’re taking it, right? If you’re not careful, you can consume a bunch of artificial ingredients that come from poor quality sourcing – which totally works against what you’re trying to do. It is also suggested that you talk with your doctor, especially if you have any medical conditions. You’ll want to make sure that any supplements you’re taking do not react with any other medications you might need to take. If you are comparing products or you are concerned with specific ingredients, they can also be helpful in navigating what’s best for you based on your medical history.