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Polyphenols For Good Gut Health

Polyphenols For Good Gut Health

Polyphenols play an important role in our gut health as well as our overall health. Let’s look further at why we need polyphenols for good gut health.

What are polyphenols?

Polyphenols are naturally occurring constituents in plant foods that give foods, such as berries, their rich, vibrant colours.

Types of polyphenols include:

  • proanthocyanidins
  • anthocyanins
  • lignanstannins
  • flavonones
  • flavones
  • flavonols
  • flavanols
  • phenolicacids
  • isoflavones
NBH Role of dietary polyphenols on gut microbiota, their metabolites and health benefits. Aravind et al, 2021

Polyphenols For Good Gut Health

Not only are polyphenol-rich foods high in antioxidants, they also provide excellent support for the healthy growth and maintenance of our gut flora (our microbiota). Additionally, polyphenols can also exert anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic and anticarcinogenic effects as well as supporting cardiac health, which was well described in the review by Aravind et al, in 2021.(1) These positive impacts may contribute to why eating a diet high in polyphenols was also linked to increased longevity in a 12-year study of 807 adults living in Tuscany, Italy.(2)

Mediterranean diet anyone?

Without a healthy and diverse gut microbiota, we would be unable to utilise polyphenols in our foods. Instead, they would be eliminated along with other waste products on our stool. After eating foods that contain polyphenols, we only absorb approximately 5% of the polyphenols in our small intestine, so about 95% will reach our large intestine intact.(1, 3) These will feed and nourish beneficial species within our microbiota, such as the butyrate producing Faecalibacterium spp., helping to maintain healthy populations of microbes that can help support our health and wellbeing.

In return for feeding them, some of these same microbes will convert the previously unabsorbable polyphenols into forms that can be absorbed by us, enabling them to be utilised in our own body processes.(3) By supporting beneficial bacteria like these, especially those that produce beneficial short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like butyrate, we also help to make the environment of the gut less hospitable to bacteria that are less desirable, and possibly problematic.

What foods contain polyphenols?

Given we find polyphenols in plant foods, what we choose to eat plays an important role. Some of the common wholefoods that contain polyphenols include:

  • Vegetables – purple/red/orange carrots, purple/red potatoes, red/purple cabbage, spinach, red onions, broccoli, red/purple lettuces
  • Fruits – blueberries, blackcurrants, raspberries, blackberries, blood plums, cherries, red/black grapes, strawberries, boysenberries, elderberries, red apples, pomegranates
  • Grains – red/black rice, red/black quinoa, whole grain rye bread (sourdough)
  • Legumes – dark coloured legumes such as kidney beans, adzuki beans, black turtle beans
  • Nuts/Seeds – flaxseeds/flaxseed meal, hazelnuts, chestnuts, pecans, almonds, black sesame seeds/tahini (skins of the nuts must be eaten)
  • Other – green tea, dark cocoa/cacao, black olives, olive oil

How to get more polyphenols into your daily diet

Polyphenols tend to be the red and purple fruits and vegetables, so think colourful when you are shopping for produce.

  • instead of iceberg, look for red and purple lettuce like radicchio
  • swap out your regular potatoes for the red varieties like Desiree
  • drink green tea, rosella tea or have a cup of cacao
  • add red and black beans, rice and quinoa to your salads
  • snack on nuts (keep the skins on!)

Eating a wide variety of colourful food is a great way to get polyphenols into your daily diet for good health and good gut health.

Does your gut need some support? Book in for an appointment and let’s kickstart your healing journey.


  1. Mithul Aravind S, Wichienchot S, Tsao R, Ramakrishnan S, Chakkaravarthi S. Role of dietary polyphenols on gut microbiota, their metabolites and health benefits. Food Res Int. 2021 Apr;142:110189. doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2021.110189. Epub 2021 Jan 29. PMID: 33773665.
  1. 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
  2. Ozdal T, Sela DA, Xiao J, Boyacioglu D, Chen F, Capanoglu E. The Reciprocal Interactions between Polyphenols and Gut Microbiota and Effects on Bioaccessibility. Nutrients. 2016;8(2):78.
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