Time after time, mothers have insisted and in some cases made you eat your fruits and vegetables. And for good reasons! Foods high in polyphenols, such as fruits and vegetables, have been known to demonstrate anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic properties. Well, recently researchers in Italy have provided you with another reason to consume and promote foods high in polyphenols, and that is longevity.
What are Polyphenols?
Taking you back to the “loved” days of chemistry classes, polyphenols are characterized by multiple (poly) benzenoid (phenyl) structural units that contain at least one attached hydroxyl group (-OH) similar to alcohols (“ol” suffix). Polyphenols originate from plant-based foods such as beans, vegetables, fruits, and grains. Common examples include dark chocolate (cacao beans), red wine (grapes) and tea (tea leaves). There are more than 8,000 phenolic compounds identified, most of which are powerful antioxidants which can neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation.
Foods to Note
If you have ever steeped your tea too long (like me), you may notice the added astringency. This added “bite,” is mostly due to polyphenols. Below I have provided you with foods and drinks that contain a rich concentration of polyphenols per serving.
Fruits- strawberries, apples, cherry, raspberry.
Vegetables- Spinach, broccoli, red onion.
Nuts- Almonds, walnuts, pecans.
Beverages- Red wine, black and green tea, cocoa.
(Of course for those of age, moderate alcohol consumption is recommended. Meaning two drinks for the gentleman, and one for the ladies)
Dried herbs- Parsley, rosemary, sage, oregano, basil, peppermint.
Oils- Canola oil, extra-virgin olive oil.
***It is essential that you talk to a Registered Dietitian or your physician if you are trying to rebuild your body’s iron stores. Certain polyphenols such as those found in tea or coffee are known to reduce non-heme iron absorption.
Longevity and Polyphenols
Nutritional studies in the past that have focused on dietary intake of selected foods are mostly limited to the participant’s memory through questionnaires. That recently changed as researchers in Italy directly measured the dietary intake of polyphenols using a nutritional biomarker (urinary output). The research was published in The Journal of Nutrition, which took approximately 800 men and women ages 65 years and older and had their total urinary polyphenol (TUP) concentration compared for 12 years. Of the approximate 800 participants, 34% died. The participants who survived had significantly higher amounts of total urinary polyphenol. (>650 mg/day) verses participants with lower polyphenol intakes (<500 mg/day). Raúl Zamora Ros, first author of the study, stated “results corroborate scientific evidence suggesting that people consuming diets rich in fruit and vegetables are at lower risk of several chronic disease and overall mortality.” Thus, it is suggested that those whom consume foods high in polyphenol compounds can be associated with decreased mortality and increased longevity.
About the Writer
Gavin Van De Walle is an ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, a NANBF Natural Competitive bodybuilder, and a dietetic student at South Dakota State University. Following graduation, Gavin will pursue his Ph.D. in nutritional sciences while aiming to make a positive impact on the over well-being and nutritional status of the American people along the way.
1. Universidad de Barcelona (2013, October 9). High dietary intake of polyphenols are associated with longevity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 12, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131009111025.htm
2. R. Zamora-Ros, M. Rabassa, A. Cherubini, M. Urpi-Sarda, S. Bandinelli, L. Ferrucci, C. Andres-Lacueva. High Concentrations of a Urinary Biomarker of Polyphenol Intake Are Associated with Decreased Mortality in Older Adults. Journal of Nutrition, 2013; 143 (9): 1445 DOI:10.3945/jn.113.177121
3. Wardlaw, Gordon M., and Carol Byrd-Bredbenner. Wardlaw's Perspectives in Nutrition.New York: McGraw-Hill, 2013. Print.