8 Foods High in Polyphenols (and Why You Should Add Them to Your Diet)
In the wellness world, it seems like there’s a new buzzword every day. If we’re not sprinkling adaptogens in our smoothies or adding collagen to our coffee, then we’re trying intermittent fasting or making fat bombs. And while certain wellness trends are a little kookier than others, we’ve been hearing a lot about polyphenols lately. And this is one area in which the science is clear: These good-for-you compounds are definitely worth adding to your diet. Here’s what you need to know.
First up, what are polyphenols? “Polyphenols are compounds that are abundant in plants that have been the focus of a lot of scientific interest because of their potential for benefits on health,” Summer Yule, MS, RDN, tells us. There are many types of polyphenols (over 8,000 different ones have been identified) but you might already be familiar with some of them, like the flavonoids found in berries.
And why are they good for you? “Consuming a diet of foods rich in polyphenols over the long-term has been linked to a decreased risk of certain chronic health conditions (such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease), as well as a reduced risk of all-cause mortality,” says Yule. In fact, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found a correlation between high polyphenol consumption and a 30 percent decrease in mortality in elderly adults. Not too shabby. But as JeJe Noval, PhD, RDN and assistant professor at Loma Linda University School of Allied Health Professions, points out, it’s not just the polyphenols alone that produce these positive effects. “Polyphenols work together with all the other nutrients in the plant-based food sources to produce a synergistic protective effect on one’s body.”
How many polyphenols should I have in a day? Polyphenols are not essential nutrients, which means that there are no dietary reference intakes set for them. “Rather than focus on amounts of daily polyphenol intake, I encourage people to focus on increasing their daily intake of fruits and vegetables to eight to ten servings,” says Noval. Ready to get your fill?
8 Foods Rich in Polyphenols
1. Dark chocolate. Boasting a whopping 1,664 mg of polyphenols per serving, we’re definitely using this as an excuse to indulge in a few squares of the dark stuff for dessert tonight (just don’t go crazy—sugar isn’t so good for you, remember?).
2. Hazelnuts. While all nuts contain polyphenols, hazelnuts top the list with 495 mg per serving (followed by pecans and almonds).
3. Cherries. You already know that this tart fruit can help you sleep, but did you know that it’s also a polyphenols powerhouse? With 274 mg per serving, we’ll be picking up an extra batch of these at the farmers market this weekend. (And the darker the cherries the better, according to a 2012 study in the Journal of Agricultural Sciences.)
4. Artichokes. With 260 mg of polyphenols per serving, there’s no better reason to whip up these crispy roasted artichokes with garlic aioli.
5. Strawberries. Our favorite summer snack boasts 235 mg of polyphenols per serving. Stick to organic berries if possible, since these guys are high on the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen.
6. Coffee. Best. News. Ever. Your morning cup of joe has 214 mg of these antioxidants per serving. Just stay away from added sugar and non-dairy creamer, which can actually negatively impact coffee’s polyphenol absorption, according to a study in the Journal of Nutrition.
7. Red grapes. Scratch that—this is even better news. While the fruit contains 169 mg of polyphenols per serving, red wine has 101 mg. We’ll take another glass of merlot, please. Note: Polyphenols are found in the skins of red grapes—green grapes (used for white wine) have just 10 mg of polyphenols per serving.
8. Spinach. Add some of these green leaves to your salad for an extra 119 mg of polyphenols per serving. Plus, loads of good-for-you nutrients and vitamins, of course.
Amounts of polyphenols per serving, according to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.