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Foods High in Polyphenols to Add to Your Diet

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Foods High in Polyphenols

Polyphenols are compounds abundant in many plant foods that can help protect you against many health conditions. Foods that are high in polyphenols may help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, digestive issues, and obesity. Some of the best dietary food sources of polyphenols include cloves, berries, apples, red onion, and nuts.

The best way to get these health-boosting compounds in your diet is to consume polyphenol-rich foods. You can also buy polyphenol supplements that are claimed to improve health. However, many supplements containing large doses of polyphenols may have certain adverse side effects.


Some of the health benefits of polyphenol plant-rich foods could be affected by high levels of lectins. In some people, lectins in certain raw plant foods can cause issues with digestion.

In this article, you will learn about the top foods that are high in polyphenols. You will also find out why adding these great sources of polyphenols to your diet can help protect your health.

What are Polyphenols?

Polyphenols are health-boosting micronutrients found in fruits, vegetables, berries, and some beverages. Research has identified over 8,000 phenolic compounds in various plant sources. (1)

Very often, brightly-colored or dark-colored fruits indicate that these foods are high in polyphenols. For example, a type of polyphenol called anthocyanin gives fruits a dark red, purple, blue, or black color. Consuming these colorful polyphenol-rich foods in your diet has been linked to lowering inflammation and increasing the number of antioxidants. (1)

Another type of polyphenol called catechins is found in abundance in beverages such as tea and coffee. Resveratrol is a polyphenol compound that is found in very large amounts in red wine. (1, 2)

In general, consuming polyphenol-rich foods as part of a healthy diet is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and cognitive decline. (3)

The main types of polyphenols from plant sources include the following: (4)

  • Flavonoids
  • Stilbenes
  • Phenolic acids
  • Lignans

Foods High in Polyphenols and Low in Lectins

Some people suggest that it’s best to eat foods high in polyphenols and low in lectins because lectins can have negative side effects.

Lectins are compounds found in some foods and they are sometimes described as anti-nutrients. Consuming lectins in small amounts might have some benefits. But consumption of large amounts of lectins can reduce the absorption of some nutrients.

Some foods with high lectin content such as legumes, eggplant, potatoes, and wheat can cause digestive upset. Lectin-rich foods can cause gas, bloating, and indigestion in some people. (5)

Eating foods rich in lectins could also be linked to chronic inflammation and gluten-sensitivity. (6, 7)

When it comes to foods high in polyphenols and low in lectins, the good news is that lectin in small amounts may have certain benefits.

Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan say that cooking food generally breaks down high levels of lectins. Soaking dried beans for a few hours before cooking helps to turn them into a low-lectin food. Another way to reduce the lectin content of beans is to sprout them or remove their husks. (8)


Also, the amount of lectin-rich foods you would need to eat to suffer side effects is generally more that is consumed on a typical diet. In small amounts, lectins can even act as an antioxidant and help improve digestion. (8)

Polyphenol Supplements – Should You Take Them?

Polyphenol supplements contain concentrated doses of various polyphenolic compounds. When it comes to taking high doses of polyphenols, it seems that more isn’t always better.

Researchers have found that taking high-dose polyphenols in the form of supplements could have a toxic effect in the body. Supplements with high polyphenol content can inhibit iron absorption, affect thyroid function, and interact with medication. (9)

Eating plant-based foods that have high levels of health-protective polyphenols is better for you than a supplement. Fruits and vegetables contain natural sources of polyphenols along with other vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are good for your health.

Foods High in Polyphenols

There are many foods that contain significant quantities of polyphenols that can boost your health.

The journal Nature published a list of the top 100 polyphenol-rich foods that can help boost your health. The top 10 polyphenol foods include common foods such as cocoa powder, dried peppermint, dried oregano, flaxseeds, and black chokeberries. (10)

Levels of polyphenols in food and beverages are calculated as the weight of phenolic compounds in milligrams (mg) per 100 grams (g) or 100 milliliters (ml).

Cloves are one of the best polyphenol food sources on the planet. Studies have shown that cloves are extremely high in phenolic compounds such as gallic acid, eugenol, and tannins. Cloves contain 15,188 mg of polyphenols per 100 g of weight. (11)

Peppermint, star anise, oregano, sage, and rosemary are examples of other seasonings in the top 10 of foods with high polyphenol content. For example, peppermint has the second highest number of phenolic compounds in the form of flavonoids and phenolic acids. Dried peppermint has 11,960 mg of polyphenols per 100 g, star anise has 5,460 mg of polyphenols, and Mexican dried oregano has 2,319 mg of polyphenols. (12)

Adding these delicious dried herbs and seasonings to your meals is one way to enjoy a diet high in polyphenols.

Curry powder is an example of another seasoning with substantial polyphenol content. Cumin, coriander, black pepper, and ginger, are healthy spices that make up curry powder, and many of these spices are on the list of top 100 polyphenol foods.

Black olives rank as one of the top foods on the list of best polyphenol-rich foods. Black olives contain polyphenols such as oleuropein which has an antioxidant effect in reducing inflammation and boosting cardiovascular health. Black olives are a type of fruit that contains an impressive 569 mg of phenolic compounds. (13)

Ginger is a polyphenol-rich spice that helps to lower inflammation and improve gastrointestinal health. Research has shown that ginger contains many types of polyphenols including gingerol, shogaol, and gingerenone. Interestingly, dried ginger is just as good for your health as fresh ginger. Dried ginger has 202 mg of phenolic compounds. (14, 15)


Red onions contain a high number of polyphenolic compounds such as quercetin, anthocyanin, and flavanols. Studies have shown that red onions have good antioxidant activity with potential use as a natural healing agent. Red onions are higher on the list of the best polyphenol foods than yellow onions. Red onions have an impressive 168 mg of polyphenols compared to the yellow variety having just 74 mg. (16)

Spinach has a place in the list of foods packed with polyphenols because it contains 119 mg of polyphenols per 100g. This means that apart from green chicory which has 166 mg of polyphenols, spinach is top for phenolic compounds among green leafy vegetables. Studies have shown that polyphenols from spinach help kill off free radicals and lower oxidative stress. (17)

Artichokes are one example of a delicious vegetable which is incredibly high in polyphenols. Globe artichoke heads have 260 mg of polyphenols which is just the same as blackberries. Flavones from artichokes have been linked to improved cardiovascular health and cognitive performance. (18)

Dark chocolate has to be one of the tastiest foods that are rich in polyphenols. Many phenolic compounds are found in cacao beans and they have an impressive 1,664 mg of polyphenols. Some of the health benefits of consuming dark chocolate are helping to reduce blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity, and boosting cognitive performance.

Milk chocolate also contains some polyphenols (266 mg); however, the addition of sugar negates many of the benefits of cocoa powder.

Broccoli may not be among the vegetables with exceptionally high levels of polyphenols, but it still contains a total of 45 mg. Many of the other health benefits of broccoli are due to the fact it is packed with antioxidants and the green vegetable is a good source of vitamin A and C.

Broccoli sprouts are food high in polyphenols and low in lectins. Studies have shown that fresh broccoli sprouts are an excellent source of polyphenols. As already mentioned, sprouted seeds contain significantly lower levels of lectin than the fully-grown variety. (19)

Other foods rich in polyphenols

Some examples of foods with a significant number of phenolic compounds include:

Capers are high up on the list of the richest polyphenol-containing foods with 654 mg of polyphenols per 100 g.

Potatoes have 28 mg of polyphenols and potato juice is good for improving your digestive health.

Soy-based foods can have as high as 466 mg of polyphenols per 100g. For the healthiest type of soy food, choose a fermented soy product such as tempeh which has 148 mg of polyphenols.

Whole grain flour also contains good amounts of polyphenols. The best types of whole grain flour are hard wheat flour (201 mg) and rye flour (143 mg).

White beans are very healthy for you because they contain 51 mg of polyphenols and are a good source of fiber and plant protein. Soak dried beans before cooking to reduce their lectin levels.

Carrots may not be the richest source of polyphenols (just 14 mg), but they are rich in vitamin A, C, K, and B vitamins as well as fiber. Carrots rightly deserve a place on the list of healthiest vegetables to eat.

Berries are High in Polyphenols

One of the best ways to get polyphenols into your diet is to eat plenty of red or dark-colored berries.

Let’s look at some of the healthiest berries which are in the top 10 list of polyphenol-rich foods:


Black chokeberries are one of the highest dietary sources of polyphenols among the berries. 100 g of black chokeberries contain 1,756 mg of various phenolic compounds. Black chokeberries have been linked to boosting digestive health, improving cardiovascular health, and lowering your risk of diabetes. (20)

Black elderberries are the second type of berry in the top 10 polyphenol foods. With having 1,359 mg of polyphenols, they contain more beneficial compounds than most other fruits, nuts, and vegetables. (21)

Lowbush blueberries are a sweet tasty food that is high in polyphenols. Blueberries are a rich source of a number of phenolic compounds such as anthocyanins, flavonoids, and gallic acid. Wild blueberries contain 836 mg of polyphenols and, because they also contain many vitamins and minerals, they are an extremely healthy berry. (22)

Blackcurrants are extremely high in polyphenols as there is a massive 758 mg of total phenolic compounds. Blackcurrants are good for your vision, lowering blood pressure, and lowering inflammation. (29)

Blackberry, strawberries, and red raspberries are other berries packed with polyphenols. These delicious fruits contain between 201 mg and 260 mg of polyphenols. Many of the health benefits of these colored berries are due to polyphenols such as anthocyanins, quercetin, and catechins. Most berries have anti-inflammatory compounds that help to reduce the risk of chronic disease. (22, 23, 24)

Related: List of Different Kinds of Berries and Their Benefits

The Best Polyphenol Fruits

Berries are among the best polyphenol-rich fruits that you can consume. There are a number of other fruits that are also excellent ways to get polyphenols and are low in lectins.

Plums are one of the best sources of polyphenols from fruits. Studies have shown that types of plums contain plenty of polyphenols such as quercetin glycosides, caffeic acid, flavanols, and anthocyanins. Being a good source of fiber, plums are also good for your digestive health. Plums contain 377 mg of polyphenols. (25)

Prunes are dried plums and are also among the list of best fruits containing polyphenols. Prunes have 194 mg of polyphenols and are even better for your digestion than eating plums.

Cherries contain ample amounts of polyphenols to enjoy on a healthy diet. Studies have shown that sweet and tart cherries have high concentrations of polyphenols. Sweet cherries have more anthocyanin polyphenols and tart cherries have more phenolic compounds. Consuming cherries or cherry juice has been linked to easing muscle pain, lowering inflammation, and reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes. (26)

Black grapes, as with most dark-colored fruits, are rich in the polyphenol anthocyanin. There is a total of 164 mg of polyphenols in black grapes such as stilbenes, phenolic acids, and anthocyanidins. One of the most powerful polyphenols from dark grapes is resveratrol which is a reason why red wine is a beverage rich in polyphenols.

Green grapes also contain polyphenols in the form of flavanols. (27, 28)

Apples may be a humble, common fruit, but they are still packed with polyphenols. In fact, apples contain 136 mg of polyphenols which means they are higher up the polyphenol food list than green tea, olive oil, and peaches.

Other polyphenol-rich fruits

Some of the other tasty fruits that have phenolic acids include the following:


Peaches naturally contain good amounts of polyphenols with 59 mg in every 100 g of fruit.

Nectarines are not one of the foods highest in polyphenols, but they still contain a modest 25 mg of polyphenols.

Pears are healthy fruits to eat because they contain good amounts of polyphenols and fiber. Studies into the benefits of pears have found that they can contain up to 41 mg of phenolics. (30)

Citrus fruits are best known for their high content of vitamin C. Lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit contain the flavanone hesperidin that has a cardio-protective effect. (31)

Nuts High in Polyphenols

Adding nuts can increase the number of polyphenols in your diet and help improve your heart health.

However nuts and seeds have high levels of phytic acid, which is also an anti-nutrient. Consuming high amount of phytic acid contributes to a number of health-related issues, including gastrointestinal upset and mineral deficiency. This is why it’s recommended to soak nuts before eating them in their raw form – read more about it in my article “Why You Need to Soak Nuts and Seeds“.

Chestnuts are the top nut when it comes to polyphenol-rich nuts. Chestnuts contain 1,215 mg of phenolic compounds which means they are a better source of polyphenols than many fruits and berries. Chestnuts contain ellagitannins, a type of polyphenol that may help to control some diabetes symptoms. (32)

Hazelnuts and pecan nuts are some of the best sources of polyphenols from common nuts. Both of these nuts contain almost the same high levels of polyphenols with around 495 mg of polyphenols per 100 g. Consuming both hazelnuts and pecan nuts has a good effect on cholesterol levels and cardiovascular health. (33)

Almonds are some of the best nuts to increase the number of polyphenols in your diet. 100 g of these nuts contain 187 mg of polyphenol compounds that include 16 flavonoids and 2 phenolic acids. Almond consumption has been linked to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. (34)

Walnuts have a relatively fewer number of polyphenols compared to other nuts. However, one study suggested that walnuts may be among the healthiest nuts to eat. Polyphenols and antioxidants from walnuts are easily absorbed into the body. (35)

Seeds High in Polyphenols

Some seeds also contain a whole host of polyphenolic compounds that can help improve your general health.

Flaxseeds is one way to increase the number of polyphenols in your diet as there is a whopping 1,528 mg in 100 g. To make sure and get the benefits of polyphenols in flaxseeds, it’s important to grind them into flaxseed meal before consuming them. Flaxseeds are also one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids which help protect your heart health. (39)

Celery seeds are in the top 10 best foods for increasing polyphenols in your diet. Celery seeds contain a huge number of polyphenols – 2,094 mg, which ranks them at number 6 on the list. Extracts from celery seeds have been linked to pain relief, anti-inflammation, and effective for treating hypertension. (40, 41)

Beverages High in Polyphenols

Beverages that are made from rich plant sources of polyphenols are also a good way to get more of these healthy compounds in your diet.

Coffee is at the top of the list when it comes to polyphenol-rich drinks. Filtered coffee made from ground coffee beans contains 214 mg of polyphenols in every 100 ml. In some countries, coffee is actually the major food source of polyphenols. When consumed in moderation, coffee can have a number of benefits for your cognitive health and liver health. There is also evidence that coffee may even reduce your risk of heart disease. (36)

Green tea contains flavonoids called catechins which are powerful polyphenols linked to good health. Studies have linked consuming green tea to lowering your risk of arthritis, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. Green tea has 89 mg of polyphenols per 100 ml which is just slightly less than black tea which has 102 mg.

Red wine is an alcoholic drink that has types of polyphenols such as stilbenes, flavonoids, and phenolic acids. The total polyphenol content in red wine is 101 mg. Studies have shown that red wine contains polyphenols not found in regular grapes and it has unique antioxidant activity. Many studies have shown that moderate consumption of red wine can help improve vascular health. (37, 38)

Other polyphenol-rich beverages

Pure pomegranate juice is one of the best fruit juices to increase the number of polyphenols in your diet. 100 ml of pomegranate juice has 66 mg of polyphenols which is just 2 fewer than apple juice.

Citrus juices made from blood oranges, lemons, and grapefruit are among the best fruit juices on the list of the best 100 polyphenol food sources. The juices contain between 42 mg and 56 mg of polyphenols per 100 ml of liquid.

Oils High in Polyphenols

Extra virgin olive oil contains a wide range of polyphenolic compounds that are good for your health. Studies have shown that the high levels of polyphenols along with vitamins and fatty acids make olive oil one of the healthiest oils. Plant polyphenols in olive oil such as lignans, phenolic acids, and various flavonoids have been linked to improving a number of health conditions. (42)

Canola oil (rapeseed oil) is a type of vegetable oil that also contains a number of polyphenols. However, consuming canola oil has been linked to a number of health concerns as it is a highly refined oil.

Healthier alternatives to canola oil that also contain polyphenols are olive oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil, or coconut oil. Studies have shown that avocado oil is rich in phenolic compounds and antioxidants. Naturally occurring polyphenols in coconut oil also help protect cells from oxidative stress and damage. (43, 44)

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