What makes matcha, dark chocolate, and red wine healthy options? In addition to being pleasing to our tastebuds, they are potent in polyphenols, micronutrients that are plant-based powerhouses. If you’re trying to load up on antioxidants to fight inflammation, cancer, and a laundry list of health benefits, you’ll want to start incorporating more polyphenol-rich foods into your diet.
So, how do polyphenols work in our bodies? “Many polyphenol benefits come from its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. By reducing free radicals and oxidative stress within the body, polyphenols reduce cellular damage that can lead to many chronic diseases,” Dr. Josh Axe explains.
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The benefits of consuming these micronutrients are vast. According to Axe, “Polyphenols are known to provide protection against heart disease, reduce inflammation that can cause health issues like rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, prevent the formation of blood clots and support blood sugar control.” Additional studies have shown polyphenols to be helpful in the prevention of cancer and type two diabetes as well.
Well, count us in— any excuse for a cup of coffee. Below you can find ten plant-based foods high in polyphenols.
While all berries contain a hearty dose of polyphenols, blueberries far exceed the others. “Blueberries are packed with free-radical fighting antioxidants that protect us from several types of chronic disease. Research also shows that the polyphenols found in blueberries may help to reduce the activity of several triggers of inflammation,” Axe explains.
You’ve likely heard that green tea (and matcha!) are high in antioxidants, and, in turn, it is also high in polyphenols. Green tea contains flavonoids, a form of polyphenols— which make up 30% of the dry weight of the tea. These beneficial compounds have been studied to potentially reduce cancer risk, as well as lower blood pressure.
Vegetables overall are high in polyphenols, but if you want to optimize your choices, spinach, and artichoke top the list. “Spinach is a nutrition powerhouse. It’s very high in antioxidants, including polyphenols, which serve as protective compounds that give spinach its anti-aging effects,” shared Axe. An easy way to get in your spinach? Throw a few handfuls into your morning smoothie.
More of a coffee drinker than a matcha drinker? Good news— your morning cup of joe is giving you a nice boost of polyphenols, specifically a form of polyphenols called chlorogenic acids. Chlorogenic acids have been researched to show benefits in preventing certain chronic diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, Parkinson’s and liver disease.
Who said getting your micronutrients has to be all veggies? Cacao and dark chocolate are high in flavonoids, a form of polyphenols. “Dark chocolate has been shown to have the highest content of polyphenols and flavonoids of all food sources. Studies show that the polyphenol content in dark chocolate may be involved in cholesterol control, helping to increase HDL cholesterol and decrease LDL cholesterol,” Axe notes.
Herbs and Spices
Lots of fresh herbs and spices are high in polyphenols, so load up your cooking with herbs for an extra antioxidant boost. Cloves top the list as one of the most polyphenol-rich food you can consume, with high counts of phenolic acids and flavonoids. Peppermint follows thereafter, but your common kitchen herbs like basil and cilantro will provide you with benefits as well.
Whatever nut you like to snack on, it has polyphenols (roasted or not!). Hazelnuts and pecans have the highest polyphenol count, but walnuts have been studied to be a powerhouse as well, having being studied to fight cancer due to the high anti-free radical properties. So lather up that nut butter toast or enjoy your walnut latte.