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Polyphenols Can Help Boost Your Brain, Heart *and* Digestion—Here’s How to Get Your Fill

January 24, 2022 3 min read

Polyphenols Can Help Boost Your Brain, Heart *and* Digestion—Here’s How to Get Your Fill

Polyphenols Can Help Boost Your Brain, Heart *and* Digestion—Here’s How to Get Your Fill

Regardless of what healthy eating plan you stick to, there's one rule that's prescribed to all eaters: Eat a lot of plants. If it comes from the ground, chances are it's good for you. (Okay, except for those mushrooms that will kill you and herbs that are drugs—but even that latter one is hotly debated.) But in general, fruits, vegetables, and herbs have myriad health benefits. One biggie: polyphenols.

"Polyphenols are active compounds that are naturally found in fruits, vegetables, cereals, and some beverages—like wine, coffee, and tea," says naturopathic and holistic dietitian Meg Hagar, MS, RD. "They benefit the body by fighting against harmful agents like ultraviolet rays, radiation, and some pathogens. Research has shown that diets high in foods rich in polyphenols can even help prevent the development of illness such as cancers, heart diseases, and diabetes." The ultimate multitasking overachievers, research has also found polyphenols to benefit the body by boosting health in a range of areas including cognitive functioning, cardiovascular strength, and digestion.

According to scientific research, a good goal is to aim to get 650 milligrams of polyphenols a day, though Hagar says the science is a bit fuzzy on this because it's difficult to measure how well the nutrients are absorbed. "Eating polyphenols will be beneficial no matter what, so get them in whenever and however you can," she says. "However, since we know they help fight damage, it might be a good idea to be more conscious of consuming these components post-workout, during a day in the sun, or when you have been exposed to environmental pollutants."

Scientists are starting to investigate polyphenols as a way to slow outward signs of aging too, making it a buzzy nutrient in the beauty industry. "The research supporting polyphenol consumption and anti-aging is fascinating," Hagar says. "Especially working with a lot of skin clients, I always promote consuming fruits and vegetables for this reason. And it's also why I'm a fan of moderate tea, coffee, and wine intake." (All—spoiler alert—top sources of polyphenols, as you'll soon see.)

Hagar says a good rule is to get four or five servings of fruits or vegetables a day, not just to reap those polyphenols rewards, but to get the other nutrients you need, too. "This should be more than enough to get the beneficial effects of a high-polyphenol diet," she says.

Ready to start working more polyphenols into your diet? Keep reading for 10 foods and drinks that will help you do it.

10 foods rich in polyphenols

All amounts below are per serving, according to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

1. Cherries (274 mg per serving): Cherry on top puns aside, this fruit really brings it on the polyphenols front as one of the highest sources. Scientific studies have linked cherries in particular as being good for your gut, too.

2. Strawberries (235 mg): Just a handful of these juicy berries gets you one-third of the way to the daily goal. One study showed that polyphenols from strawberries can contribute to preventing and treating chronic-degenerative diseases and lower chronic inflammation. (The antioxidants play a big role in that, too.) Just be sure to buy organic since strawberries are the dirtiest of the Dirty Dozen.

3. Blackcurrants (2150 mg): Possibly the most purple fruit on the planet, Blackcurrants are continuing to publish more and more research towards supporting exercise, immunity, metabolism and brain benefits. 

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