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How to Boost Your Intake of Polyphenol Antioxidants

Polyphenols have recently been termed “lifespan essentials”, and they actively work in the body to prevent certain disease mechanisms from occurring.[1] Polyphenols are antioxidants from plant foods that work in the body to enhance health in complex ways, and as such they are not simply antioxidants.[2] Their specific health-promoting actions are still being actively researched, and it is generally recognized that they can reduce the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and basically help to protect many body systems from the risks or ravages of many types of chronic disease.[3] It is possible that the health promoting effects of polyphenols are not due to their antioxidant qualities, but rather because they help control blood sugar spikes after meals.[4] Boosting one's intake of polyphenols on a daily basis is easy to do, and can be a tasty, gourmet adventure.


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    Eat and drink polyphenol-rich foods throughout the day. Maintain high levels of polyphenols in your body and bloodstream throughout the day! Eat and drink the polyphenol-rich foods that are described below every few hours. Blood levels of polyphenols will peak soon after they are consumed, then decrease as they are metabolized or excreted from the body. Some polyphenols will not be absorbed into the bloodstream, but will merely pass through the digestive tract. These polyphenols are very important as well because they may help to prevent colon cancer and such diseases.
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    Eat lots of unrefined fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Refining of foods removes polyphenols, so eat fresh or freshly cooked fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes instead of refined foods and meat products. Polyphenols tend not to be destroyed by moderate cooking or heating, and cooked foods may offer a more bioavailable source of polyphenols. Eat fresh and cooked plant foods.
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    Choose richly hued fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Rich colors such as reds and purples or black indicate that plant foods are excellent sources of polyphenols. Choose foods such as blueberries, pomegranates, red grapes, cranberries, and red or purple sweet potatoes. Blueberries as well as foods such as black rice, purple barley, black sorghum, and purple potatoes are sources of anthocyanins, as well as other polyphenols. The compound responsible for the color of turmeric, called curcumin, also happens to be a polyphenol.
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    Drink polyphenol-rich beverages. Beverages are concentrated, easily absorbed sources of polyphenol antioxidants.
    • Choose fruit juices that do not have added sugar. Pure pomegranate, blueberry, red grape, and unfiltered apple juice or cider are excellent choices.
    • Tea and coffee are very rich sources certain types of polyphenols. Choose caffeinated tea and coffee, as the decaffeination process may remove polyphenols along with the caffeine.
    • Drink red wine and beer instead of other alcoholic beverages. Hard liquor is distilled so essentially does not contain polyphenols. Red wine is an associated with the "French Paradox,"[5] which essentially initiated the discovery that red wine and other plant foods may be very important to health and prevent chronic disease. Red wine is a very rich source of the famous polyphenol Resveratrol, which is present in high concentrations in the skins of wine grapes. For the highest concentrations of resveratrol, choose Pinot Noir wines from colder, damp climates such as New York and Oregon. Resveratrol is formed in large quantities by the grapes in such climates because the resveratrol is needed to protect the grapes from mold in such conditions. Beer is also a great source of polyphenols, and contains a great variety of polyphenols. This is because beer is made with barley as well as hops. Barley provides the majority of the polyphenols found in beer, but hops are an important source of a variety of polyphenols. For the highest concentrations of polyphenols, choose well-hopped bitter beers such as India Pale Ales or dark beers. Dark malt that is used to make dark beers provides melanoidin antioxidants that actually may help to keep the hop polyphenol antioxidants in the beer during the brewing process. Non-alcoholic red wine and beer are also available, and may be a good source of polyphenols as well.
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    Eat dark chocolate and cocoa powder. Chocolate and cocoa are somewhat refined, but are one of the richest sources of polyphenols. Choose dark, bitter chocolate and unsweetened cocoa. The saturated fat in chocolate should not raise bad cholesterol when consumed in moderation.
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    Select bitter, astringent, or strongly flavored plant foods. Polyphenols tend to be astringent, bitter or harsh on the palate. Pure pomegranate juice is noticeably astringent. Yellow onions that make you cry are higher in polyphenols than sweet onions. Be sure to choose polyphenol-rich foods that have not been overly sweetened or diluted, as the sugar and other such ingredients can negate the healthy effects of the polyphenols. Unfiltered, astringent olive oils are also great sources of polyphenols.
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    Shop for produce at the farmers' market or grow your own. Plants raised organically or in more natural conditions can be much higher in polyphenols. An Italian study which found that organic peaches and pears have higher levels of polyphenols than conventional counterparts suggests that the absence of pesticides encourages a stronger antioxidant defense system (i.e. more polyphenols).[6] Plants actually produce polyphenols in order to protect themselves from diseases and pests, especially when grown in less than ideal conditions. And then you eat the plants and the polyphenols protect you!
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    Look for polyphenols listed on grocery shelves when choosing produce. Many supermarkets actually list certain polyphenols in the produce section for many vegetables, although it is unlikely that the word “polyphenol” will be used. Look for words such as “phenol” and “anthocyanin”. Other healthy plant compounds that are not polyphenols will also be listed, such as the carotenoid lutein. Try writing down these words and then search for them online to determine exactly what they are.
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    Read food labels and choose foods with listed polyphenols. Many current food products list polyphenols on their labels. Some polyphenols may be listed as substances such as flavonoids, flavonols, or anthocyanins. Current products such as antioxidant beverages and chocolate specifically list polyphenols and polyphenol flavonols. It is generally not legal for alcoholic beverages in the United States to list polyphenols on the label, although one Oregon winery has listed resveratrol on the label of their 2002 Pinot Noir.
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    Avoid foods that are sources of free radicals and destroy antioxidant polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidants so will essentially be neutralized or destroyed by unhealthy free radicals. It is good that free radicals can be neutralized by polyphenols, but the polyphenols will not be able to act in the body to the extent that is desirable. Therefore, avoid foods that are high in free radicals such as deep fried foods, meats, and refined foods. Be sure to avoid overly cooked or charred meats and chemically treated meats such as bacon. Deep fried foods are notorious sources of free radicals, as the deep frying oil is continuously oxidized as it is heated. The fried food is also cooked at very high temperatures, so more free radicals are formed.
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    Relax. Your body will use up antioxidant polyphenols faster if you are under stress.


  • Polyphenols are consumed regularly over extended periods of time to prevent disease.
  • Many compounds such as flavonoids and anthocyanins are polyphenols. Most healthy plant compounds are polyphenols, as the term polyphenol is very general.
  • Polyphenols are still being researched and many have not been discovered and are not fully understood.
  • Do not rely simply on specific measures of antioxidant activity when evaluating the polyphenol content of foods. These measures are not able to measure the actual potential, specific health benefits of specific polyphenols, nor do they specifically measure for polyphenols. They may merely measure simple antioxidants such as vitamin C or Vitamin A.
  • If avoiding caffeine, avoid tea, coffee, and chocolate.
  • Different polyphenols will act differently in the body even though they are essentially all antioxidants.
  • If everything is kept in moderation, it wil be more effective on your health.


  • Polyphenols are not medications.
  • Alcohol can cause health problems. Do not begin drinking alcoholic beverages in order to gain health benefits.

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