Polyphenols 101: What Are They And What Do They Do?

The human body is designed to get most of the nutrients it needs through food. This is a pretty simple concept, right? Most of the things the body needs to function comes from what we eat. Macronutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrates), and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are all found in our food. Think of the history of food… it used to be that people would hunt and gather whatever food they could find; it came straight from nature and they prepared and consumed it.

The food that we eat today is quite a bit different and we sometimes have to supplement our nutrition to get everything we need to function at our best. Throughout this article we are going to explore a specific micronutrient called polyphenols. We will look at how to naturally obtain it as well as what to watch out for if you decide to supplement your diet. Simply put, we will further  investigate polyphenols 101: what are they and what do they do?

Polyphenols 101

Polyphenols 101

What are polyphenols? What do they have to do with the food we eat? Polyphenols are a micronutrient that is full of antioxidants. Let’s look at the definitions of micronutrients and antioxidants. Micronutrients are chemical elements or substances required in trace amounts for the normal growth and development of living organisms, i.e. vitamins and minerals. There are four groups of micronutrients: water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, macrominerals, and trace minerals. What exactly do each of these groups consist of? What kinds of things do you get from consuming these micronutrients? Let’s take a look!

Water soluble vitamins include vitamins B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9, (folate), B12 (cobalamin), and C (ascorbic acid). These vitamins help with things like energy, cell division, red blood cell formation, creation of collagen, fat metabolism, and so much more!

Fat soluble vitamins include A, D, E and K. These vitamins are needed for organ and immune function, bone development and a lot of other functions in the body.

Macrominerals include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, chloride, potassium, and sulfur. These things are beneficial for bones, balancing blood pressure, fluid status among many other things.

Trace minerals include iron, manganese, copper, zinc, iodine, fluoride and selenium. Trace minerals help with connective tissues, oxygen to the muscles, regulation of thyroid, bone and tooth development, and more!

You can see just how important micronutrients are to how well the body functions. It should be obvious that the body will not operate well if you are lacking these vitamins and minerals. They are essential for the body to operate at its best.

One of the reasons that polyphenols are so beneficial is that they are a great source of antioxidants, as we mentioned above. What are antioxidants? Why are they important? They are compounds that stop oxidation which is a chemical reaction that creates free radicals. These free radicals become part of chain reactions that are known to be damaging to the cells of the body. Generally speaking,it is not possible for the body to produce vitamins or minerals (micronutrients) and therefore we must consume them in order to operate optimally.

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.

 chocolate powder

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.

blackberries

Artichokes (260 mg)
Artichoke

Chicory (166-235 mg)

Chicory

Red onions (168 mg)

Red Onion

Spinach (119 mg)

Spinach

Flaxseed meal (over 1,500 mg)

flaxseed

Black currants (758 mg)

Black Currants

Plums (377 mg)

Plums

Sweet cherries (274 mg)

Cherries

Apples (136 mg)

Apples

Beans – particularly black beans and white beans have higher levels of polyphenols both containing more than 50 mg.

Beans

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.

Nuts

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.

Soy

Other seasonings – dried peppermint and star anise both contain high levels, nearly 12,000 mg and 5,500 mg respectively.

Seasonings

Tea – both black and green but try to stick to unsweetened varieties. These come in at approximately 80-100 mg.

tea

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.

Red Wine

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.vegetables

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?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.

supplements

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.

Health Benefits

Polyphenols are known to aid in digestion issues, help with weight management difficulties, improve not only diabetes and neuro degenerative disease but also cardiovascular diseases. They are also known to help protect the body from cancer development and osteoporosis. How do we know all of this? Well, science has many stories to tell about polyphenols. They are the topic of many studies, let’s look at the results from two of them next.

woman cooking

Polyphenols have garnered themselves a lot of research. Their antioxidant component has put them at the center of many scientific studies. One study shows that they can break down into molecules that are helpful to the digestive system by benefiting some of the microorganisms that reside there. How does this happen? Well, there are three classes of polyphenols that exhibit prebiotic properties. They are flavonoids, phenolic acids, and other phenolics. Prebiotics can improve intestinal health by positively altering the gut microbiome.

Another study shows that consuming at least 650 mg of polyphenols daily increased their longevity (meaning they lived longer)! The United States National Institute on Aging indicated that they have believed that polyphenols helped reduce the mortality rate, but it took a lot of research to support that theory. From the study mentioned above, the participants with a higher dosage displayed a 30% decrease in mortality rate in comparison to those that took less than 500 mg of polyphenols. That’s a good reason to make sure these little micronutrients end up in your diet, right?

Because polyphenols are micronutrients, it is important to recognize the many health benefits that come from vitamins and minerals which we mentioned a little bit above. Energy and immune function, blood clotting and other functions are some of the reasons that vitamins are necessary. Growth, fluid balance, bone health and other processes are supported by consuming minerals.Minerals and vitamins, also known as micronutrients, are crucial for not only immune function and growth but also brain function.

A factor in how well your body responds to polyphenols is how the body puts them to use… or not in some cases. They need to be bioavailable which means that the body can break down the carrier (food or supplement) and put the polyphenols to work. Your metabolism and absorption through intestines also play a role in this. You will not experience as many health benefits if your body can’t make the polyphenols do their job, which is impossible if they aren’t being broken down and absorbed.

Polyphenols, In Summary

young couple

Now that we’ve answered the question, “polyphenols 101: what are they and what do they do?” you know why this micro-nutrient is so important to the human body. We are meant to get most of the nutrients we need through food, but sometimes we must supplement. The food we eat today just doesn’t always support our nutrition in a way to get everything we need to function at our best. We recommend that your diet is high in both fruits and vegetables and that you consume a variety of foods to increase your daily consumption of polyphenols. If we had to leave you with one statement, it would be the following: this micro-nutrient and its great antioxidant properties are something the body cannot go without!

Check out our “Keto Recipe Tips for Beginners” Ultimate Guide.

Polyphenols 101: What Are They And What Do They Do?

The human body is designed to get most of the nutrients it needs through food. This is a pretty simple concept, right? Most of the things the body needs to function comes from what we eat. Macronutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrates), and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are all found in our food. Think of the history of food… it used to be that people would hunt and gather whatever food they could find; it came straight from nature and they prepared and consumed it.

The food that we eat today is quite a bit different and we sometimes have to supplement our nutrition to get everything we need to function at our best. Throughout this article we are going to explore a specific micronutrient called polyphenols. We will look at how to naturally obtain it as well as what to watch out for if you decide to supplement your diet. Simply put, we will further  investigate polyphenols 101: what are they and what do they do?

Polyphenols 101

Polyphenols 101

What are polyphenols? What do they have to do with the food we eat? Polyphenols are a micronutrient that is full of antioxidants. Let’s look at the definitions of micronutrients and antioxidants. Micronutrients are chemical elements or substances required in trace amounts for the normal growth and development of living organisms, i.e. vitamins and minerals. There are four groups of micronutrients: water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, macrominerals, and trace minerals. What exactly do each of these groups consist of? What kinds of things do you get from consuming these micronutrients? Let’s take a look!

Water soluble vitamins include vitamins B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9, (folate), B12 (cobalamin), and C (ascorbic acid). These vitamins help with things like energy, cell division, red blood cell formation, creation of collagen, fat metabolism, and so much more!

Fat soluble vitamins include A, D, E and K. These vitamins are needed for organ and immune function, bone development and a lot of other functions in the body.

Macrominerals include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, chloride, potassium, and sulfur. These things are beneficial for bones, balancing blood pressure, fluid status among many other things.

Trace minerals include iron, manganese, copper, zinc, iodine, fluoride and selenium. Trace minerals help with connective tissues, oxygen to the muscles, regulation of thyroid, bone and tooth development, and more!

You can see just how important micronutrients are to how well the body functions. It should be obvious that the body will not operate well if you are lacking these vitamins and minerals. They are essential for the body to operate at its best.

One of the reasons that polyphenols are so beneficial is that they are a great source of antioxidants, as we mentioned above. What are antioxidants? Why are they important? They are compounds that stop oxidation which is a chemical reaction that creates free radicals. These free radicals become part of chain reactions that are known to be damaging to the cells of the body. Generally speaking,it is not possible for the body to produce vitamins or minerals (micronutrients) and therefore we must consume them in order to operate optimally.

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.

 chocolate powder

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.

blackberries

Artichokes (260 mg)
Artichoke

Chicory (166-235 mg)

Chicory

Red onions (168 mg)

Red Onion

Spinach (119 mg)

Spinach

Flaxseed meal (over 1,500 mg)

flaxseed

Black currants (758 mg)

Black Currants

Plums (377 mg)

Plums

Sweet cherries (274 mg)

Cherries

Apples (136 mg)

Apples

Beans – particularly black beans and white beans have higher levels of polyphenols both containing more than 50 mg.

Beans

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.

Nuts

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.

Soy

Other seasonings – dried peppermint and star anise both contain high levels, nearly 12,000 mg and 5,500 mg respectively.

Seasonings

Tea – both black and green but try to stick to unsweetened varieties. These come in at approximately 80-100 mg.

tea

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.

Red Wine

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.vegetables

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?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.

supplements

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.

Health Benefits

Polyphenols are known to aid in digestion issues, help with weight management difficulties, improve not only diabetes and neuro degenerative disease but also cardiovascular diseases. They are also known to help protect the body from cancer development and osteoporosis. How do we know all of this? Well, science has many stories to tell about polyphenols. They are the topic of many studies, let’s look at the results from two of them next.

woman cooking

Polyphenols have garnered themselves a lot of research. Their antioxidant component has put them at the center of many scientific studies. One study shows that they can break down into molecules that are helpful to the digestive system by benefiting some of the microorganisms that reside there. How does this happen? Well, there are three classes of polyphenols that exhibit prebiotic properties. They are flavonoids, phenolic acids, and other phenolics. Prebiotics can improve intestinal health by positively altering the gut microbiome.

Another study shows that consuming at least 650 mg of polyphenols daily increased their longevity (meaning they lived longer)! The United States National Institute on Aging indicated that they have believed that polyphenols helped reduce the mortality rate, but it took a lot of research to support that theory. From the study mentioned above, the participants with a higher dosage displayed a 30% decrease in mortality rate in comparison to those that took less than 500 mg of polyphenols. That’s a good reason to make sure these little micronutrients end up in your diet, right?

Because polyphenols are micronutrients, it is important to recognize the many health benefits that come from vitamins and minerals which we mentioned a little bit above. Energy and immune function, blood clotting and other functions are some of the reasons that vitamins are necessary. Growth, fluid balance, bone health and other processes are supported by consuming minerals.Minerals and vitamins, also known as micronutrients, are crucial for not only immune function and growth but also brain function.

A factor in how well your body responds to polyphenols is how the body puts them to use… or not in some cases. They need to be bioavailable which means that the body can break down the carrier (food or supplement) and put the polyphenols to work. Your metabolism and absorption through intestines also play a role in this. You will not experience as many health benefits if your body can’t make the polyphenols do their job, which is impossible if they aren’t being broken down and absorbed.

Polyphenols, In Summary

young couple

Now that we’ve answered the question, “polyphenols 101: what are they and what do they do?” you know why this micro-nutrient is so important to the human body. We are meant to get most of the nutrients we need through food, but sometimes we must supplement. The food we eat today just doesn’t always support our nutrition in a way to get everything we need to function at our best. We recommend that your diet is high in both fruits and vegetables and that you consume a variety of foods to increase your daily consumption of polyphenols. If we had to leave you with one statement, it would be the following: this micro-nutrient and its great antioxidant properties are something the body cannot go without!

Check out our “Keto Recipe Tips for Beginners” Ultimate Guide.
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2019-07-25T01:29:20-04:00