Polywhat? What and where are polyphenols?

I have just read a study that has discovered an inverse correlation between polyphenol levels and body weight and obesity in a 5 year follow up.  This was measured through the level of polyphenols in urine and body mass, waist circumference and they concluded that a greater polyphenol intake may contribute to reducing body weight.  So what are polyphenols and how do we get more of them?

Polyphenols are a class of chemical compounds found in plants.  They are characterised by the presence of more than one phenol unit and a phenol unit consists of a six membered aromatic hydrocarbon ring, bonded directly to a hydroxyl group. 

Probably one of the most well-known polyphenols is in red wine, resveratrol.  And other polyphenols are generally the thing that provide a bite in foods, think capsaicin in chilli and paprika, thymol in thyme, cinnamic acid in cinnamon and rosmarinic acid found in rosemary, thyme, oregano and peppermint.  In plants, it is the polyphenols that help defend against attack by insects and also give plants their colours.

There is a list of foods that have the highest polyphenols per serve and here are some of the most interesting highest rankings:

Strawberry                  166g    390mg polyphenols   

Pure apple juice          248g    168mg polyphenols

Apple                           110g    149mg polyphenols

Cacao Powder             3g        103mg polyphenols

Spinach                       59g      70mg polyphenols

Black beans                 35g      52mg polyphenols

Potato                         128g    36mg polyphenols

Pear                             138g    23mg polyphenols

Carrot                          54g      7.6mg polyphenols

 

In the human body, polyphenols have diverse biological properties, they can:

  • Fight cancer cells
  • Fight free radicals and reduce the appearance of ageing
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Protect skin against ultraviolet radiation
  • Promote brain health and protect against dementia
  • Support normal blood sugar levels

 


Catherine Craig
Catherine Craig

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