COUNTING your nutritional intake painstakingly every meal is no wholesome way to live. Now that science has properly caught up with nutrition, the spotlight’s finally on less quantifiable nutrients — such as polyphenols.

These are powerhouse plant compounds that can be very beneficial, perhaps more than some of the supplements you’re taking.

If you’ve overindulged in pizzas and potato chips, we’re dissecting the different kinds of polyphenols that’ll get you back to a guilt-free diet — it’s time to repent.

The four main components in polyphenols


Flavonoids work as both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents. Found in most fruits, vegetables, and also green tea, this diverse group of phytonutrients come in more than 6,000 types.

The most popular type is called anthocyanins, the pigment that’s found in colourful foods like berries, red cabbage, and eggplants. They help improve immunity, cognitive functions and also protects the heart against cardiovascular diseases.

Catechin’s another kind of flavonoid that is abundant in tea. It helps reduce the formation of free radicals in the body responsible for ageing. EGCG — one of the most powerful compounds in green tea — helps prevent heart and brain disease, too.

Phenolic acids

Phenolic acids are your defence system against diseases caused by oxidative damage, like cancer and coronary heart disease. Besides working as antioxidants, these compounds also promote anti-inflammatory conditions in the body.  

You’ll find a good dose of this phytochemical in cherries, mangoes, plums, kiwi fruits and apples. Grape seed oil is just as effective an alternative if you intend to do any cooking as well.

Besides, phenolic acids are easily absorbed through the walls of your intestinal tract, so you won’t have trouble consuming enough of them. 

Stilbenes and lignans
What do you know, your wine cellar can also be a health supplement!

If you’ve been hearing that wine can help lower cholesterol, it’s not a ruse (not entirely, anyway). In fact, up to two glasses a day is good for you.

Resveratrol is a variant of stilbenes that can be found in red wine, grapes, cranberries and pistachios. It helps fight off bacteria and other microbial attackers, apart from lowering blood pressure and protecting the brain from Alzheimer’s.

You can also find it in the roots of Japanese knotweed, which has been long used in Japan and China as a traditional herbal remedy.

Lignans, on the other hand, show important properties like antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral activity that’s also great for cardiovascular health. It’s found in high-fibre foods like flaxseed, soybeans and apricots that you can easily incorporate into your salads.

More Pro-tips

GO for unfiltered olive oil

If olive oil is a big part of your diet, it’s best to consume only unfiltered olive oil. Most olive oils are filtered for aesthetics and preservation purposes, but it’s the unfiltered options that retain the polyphenols that you’ll want.

Skip the milk

Regular milk binds to polyphenols and renders them inactive when added to tea or coffee. If you must, use coconut or nut milk as alternatives.


This article was first published on Lifestyle Asia.

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