Discover the Anti-Inflammatory Power of Polyphenols, Natural Plant Compounds -
Written by Nicole Arseneau

In recent years, previously considered luxurious treats such as dark chocolate and red wine have gained widespread recognition as important components of a healthy diet. These once-indulgent ingredients have gained positive publicity due to their purported health benefits, with research suggesting that consuming a glass of red wine with dinner or a few squares of dark chocolate daily can improve heart health and extend longevity. The presence of polyphenols, a type of natural plant compound with powerful antioxidant properties, largely contributes to these benefits.

Polyphenols are micronutrients found in a diverse range of fruits and vegetables that contain health-promoting properties. They are defined as compounds containing one or more phenolic hydroxyl groups and are rich in antioxidants that combat harmful free radicals and protect cells, thus lowering the risk of chronic disease. Polyphenols have also been linked to various health benefits, including improved blood sugar control and reduced blood clot formation. This article will cover polyphenol food sources, bioavailability, and ways to increase intake to reap their unique health benefits.

Polyphenols can be easily incorporated into your diet through a variety of food sources. Some of the best polyphenol foods include coffee, berries, cocoa powder, and certain spices and seasonings such as cloves and star anise. Here are some top polyphenol-rich foods that you may want to add to your daily diet:


  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Plums
  • Apples
  • Black currants
  • Pomegranates


  • Artichokes
  • Spinach
  • Red onions
  • Chicory


  • Black beans
  • White beans


  • Hazelnuts
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Pecans


  • Black tea
  • Green tea
  • Yerba mate
  • Red wine
  • Coffee

Other Foods

  • Cloves
  • Cocoa powder
  • Dried peppermint
  • Star anise
  • Dark chocolate
  • Olive oil

High Antioxidate Content

One of the key benefits of polyphenols is their high antioxidant content, which helps neutralize free radicals and prevent damage to cells caused by factors like stress, pollution, and an unhealthy diet. Studies have linked antioxidants to a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Therefore, incorporating more polyphenol-rich foods into your diet may help prevent chronic diseases and reduce oxidative stress.

Protect Your Heart Health

Heart disease is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for approximately 31.5 million deaths in 2020. Although several factors contribute to heart disease development, consuming more polyphenols foods can be an effective way to promote a healthy heart.

Research has shown that a higher intake of polyphenols is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. For instance, one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who consumed more flavonoids, a type of polyphenol, had 18 percent fewer deaths from heart disease compared to those who consumed fewer flavonoids. Other studies suggest that polyphenols may help protect against heart disease by scavenging free radicals and reducing chronic inflammation.

Alleviate Inflammation

While acute inflammation is a normal immune response that helps protect against injury and infection, chronic inflammation can be harmful. It can trigger the immune system to attack healthy cells, leading to an increased risk of chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Polyphenols help reduce oxidative stress, a key factor in inflammation. The anti-inflammatory properties of polyphenols may help alleviate symptoms of inflammatory conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease. A recent study from Denmark found that when polyphenols were combined with proteins from foods, such as adding milk to coffee, it enhanced the anti-inflammatory effects.

Prevent Blood Clotting

Blood clots can be a serious health concern, leading to conditions like stroke, pulmonary embolism, and deep vein thrombosis. Platelet aggregation, which occurs when platelets in the blood clump together, is a critical step in blood clot formation. While necessary to prevent excess bleeding, platelet aggregation can also cause serious health problems.

Polyphenols, such as resveratrol found in berries and red wine, may help prevent platelet aggregation and reduce the risk of blood clots. Both animal models and in vitro studies have demonstrated that resveratrol effectively inhibits platelet aggregation.

Reduce Cancer Development

Research indicates that polyphenols may help block the growth of cancer cells. According to a review published in Nutrients, specific types of polyphenols, including anthoncyanins, flavanols, flavanones, and phenolic acids, have been shown to decrease cancer cell growth and development in vitro studies.

Moreover, a significant number of the foods known for their anti-cancer properties also contain high levels of polyphenols and antioxidants. This provides you with yet another reason to incorporate more nutrient-dense foods like berries, citrus fruits, leafy greens, fresh herbs and spices into your daily diet.

Another benefit of polyphenols is their ability to help regulate blood sugar levels. High blood sugar can cause various symptoms, including fatigue, frequent urination, and unintended weight loss. If left unchecked, it can also lead to severe long-term effects, such as impaired wound healing, vision loss, and nerve damage. Studies have shown that polyphenols can help regulate blood sugar levels by stimulating insulin secretion and inhibiting the breakdown of starches into simple sugars, which can cause blood sugar spikes. In fact, a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that consuming a higher amounts of polyphenols was associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Ayurvedic medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine have long used ingredients rich in polyphenols for their medicinal properties. Cloves, green tea, berries, pomegranates, greens, nuts, and herbs are all examples of polyphenol-rich foods utilized in these practices to promote better health and ward off illnesses and infections.

While lectins, found in foods such as beans, wheat, and potatoes, can be beneficial in small amounts, they can disrupt digestion and damage the intestines in larger quantities. Polyphenols, like lectins, can impair the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals. Reducing lectin content in polyphenol-rich foods, such as by soaking beans and sprouting legumes, can be helpful.

Red wine is another source of polyphenols, and the French Paradox, where French people have lower rates of coronary heart disease despite higher saturated fat intake and regular red wine consumption, has been attributed partially to the polyphenol content of red wine. Resveratrol, found in red wine and certain types of berries, has been associated with many health benefits, such as reducing biomarkers for specific diseases.

While consuming polyphenol-rich foods is unlikely to cause negative side effects, polyphenol supplementation has been associated with potential adverse health effects, such as interfering with certain medications, impairing iron absorption, and potentially causing carcinogenic effects. It's best to obtain polyphenols through dietary sources and consult with a doctor before taking supplements, especially if there's a history of thyroid problems, iron deficiency, or cancer, or if anti-diabetes medications or blood thinners are taken. Combining polyphenol-rich foods with a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle can maximize potential benefits and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

AntioxidantsHealthy dietHeart healthNutritionPolyphenol

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