From Dr. Mercola:
Polyphenols are phytochemicals, meaning compounds found abundantly in natural plant food sources that have antioxidant properties. There are over 8,000 identified polyphenols found in foods such as tea, wine, chocolates, fruits, vegetables, and extra virgin olive oil,1 just to name a few.
Polyphenols play an important role in maintaining your health and wellness.
Antioxidants as a group help protect the cells in your body from free radical damage, thereby controlling the rate at which you age.
If your body does not get adequate protection, free radicals can become rampant, causing your cells to perform poorly. This can lead to tissue degradation and put you at risk of diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease, for example.
Antioxidants2 can be divided into three major groups:
Polyphenols can be further broken down into four categories, with additional subgroupings5,6 based on the number of phenol rings they contain, and on the basis of structural elements that bind these rings to one another.
As a general rule, foods contain complex mixtures of polyphenols, with higher levels found in the outer layers of the plants than the inner parts:7
Flavonoids, which have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, red wine, and green tea Flavones Flavonols Flavanones Isoflavones Anthocyanidins Chalcones Catechins Stilbenes, found in red wine and peanuts (resveratrol is the most well known) Lignans, found in seeds like flax, legumes, cereals, grains, fruits, algae, and certain vegetables Phenolic acids Hydroxybenzoic acids, found in tea Hydroxycinnamic acids found in cinnamon of course but also in coffee, blueberries, kiwis, plums, apples, and cherries The Role of Polyphenols in Plants and Humans
Polyphenols give fruits, berries, and vegetables their vibrant colors, and contribute to the bitterness, astringency, flavor, aroma, and oxidative stability of the food. In the plant, they protect against ultraviolet radiation, pathogens, oxidative damage, and harsh climatic conditions.
Fighting cancer cells and inhibiting angiogenesis10 (the growth of blood vessels that feed a tumor) Protecting your skin against ultraviolet radiation Fighting free radicals, and reducing the appearance of aging Promoting brain health, and protecting against dementia Reducing inflammation Supporting normal blood sugar levels11 Protecting your cardiovascular system Promoting normal blood pressure How to Optimize the Polyphenol Content of Your Diet
By far the most studied and understood polyphenol group is the flavonoids — compounds found in red wine and dark chocolate. However, no one polyphenol is necessarily better than the rest.
To optimize the benefits of these natural health boosting agents, it’s important to eat a wide variety of foods that are rich in polyphenols. High-quality seasonings, raw fruits, vegetables, and seeds are among the richest sources.12
However, there’s also the issue of bioavailability, i.e. how