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Super Fuel For Health: The Ultimate Guide to Polyphenols

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byNick

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16 Minutes

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Many top scientists, high-performers, and biohackers have been talking about “polyphenols” recently.

That’s because polyphenols are key to:

  • Longevity
  • Anti-aging
  • Immunity
  • Gut health
  • Hormones
  • Stress resilience & adaptation
  • Athletic performance & muscle building
  • Brain health
  • Weight loss
  • Beauty

Basically, every facet of health.

They’re not new…

Perhaps the most under-appreciated class of nutritional substances, polyphenols cause many of the benefits of fruits & vegetables.

You can get them naturally in food or take them as supplements.

Although they’re among the most powerful natural substances, most of the world hasn’t heard of the term.

If you could patent natural polyphenols, they’d be a billion-dollar product Share on X

In this post, I’ll share with you the magic science of polyphenols, the myriad benefits, the best natural sources, top supplements, how to use them, & everything else you should know.

What Are Polyphenols?

Polyphenols are organic micro-nutrient substances found abundantly in plants (fruits & vegetables) and of keen interest to nutrition scientists. Researchers have identified over 8,000 polyphenols so far.

They play a vital role in plants, particularly to defend against ultraviolet radiation or infection by pathogens.

Polyphenols influence the bitterness, astringency, color, flavor, & odor of popular health foods. In fact…

Polyphenols contribute the majority of the benefits of superfoods

Great dietary sources include dark chocolate, leafy greens, olive oil, berries, brightly colored produce, & green tea. Proponents of controversial substances like coffee & red wine use high polyphenol content to defend their stance.

Scientists consider polyphenols to be “nature’s biological response modifiers”. They’re extremely pharmacologically active; regulating metabolism, weight, chronic disease, & cell proliferation [R].

Though typically considered just another source of antioxidants, polyphenols do far more.

Types of Polyphenols

The term polyphenol itself refers to the molecular structure of the substances within this family. Each of these naturally occurring organic compounds contains multiple phenol units.

Their exact structure, however, determines their health benefits and the subclass of polyphenols they fall into.

Polyphenols are categorized based on their structure:

  1. Flavonoids: The largest and most studied group of polyphenols, including flavones, flavonols, flavanones, isoflavones, catechins, anthocyanins, & chalcones. They’re found in fruits, vegetables, tea, wine, and chocolate.
  2. Phenolic acids: This group includes hydroxybenzoic and hydroxycinnamic acids. They’re found in a variety of plant foods. For example, coffee is a rich source of hydroxycinnamic acids.
  3. Stilbenes: These compounds are found in very small amounts in the human diet, such as resveratrol from red wine & pterostilbene from blueberries.
  4. Lignans: Found in seeds (especially flaxseed), cereal bran, legumes, & alcohol (beer and whisky), lignans are one of the major classes of phytoestrogens, which are estrogen-like chemicals and act as antioxidants.

Most polyphenols you’ll encounter fall into the flavonoid category.

Polyphenols of a particular category share more benefits and typical characteristics than those of other categories.

More on these examples later.

Demystifying Polyphenols

If you’ve used food-derived supplements or researched the active ingredients within so-called “health foods”, you’ve surely run into substances that fall into the polyphenols category.

In this section, we’ll explore some of the best ways to consume more polyphenols & the powerful bioactive ingredients within each.

The best polyphenol-rich food sources & substances

Polyphenols are most commonly found in healthy, plant-based foods. Some of the top natural polyphenol sources include blueberries, green tea, olive oil, dark chocolate (cocoa), coffee, tea, apples, various fruits, & vegetables, and even clean red wine.

Often, fermenting these products enhances their profile of health benefits.

Here are some of the common superfoods, examples of their primary polyphenols, and other active ingredients found within the products you likely consume every day.

🥗 Superfood🔎 Polyphenol content🧬 Primary active polyphenol🌿 Other active ingredients
Coffee2140 mg/100 gChlorogenic acidHydroxycinnamic acids, caffeine, paraxanthine, theobromine, theophylline, trigonelline, cafestol, kahweol
Blueberries535 mg/100 gAnthocyaninsProanthocyanidins, Resveratrol, Quercetin
Green Tea890 mg/100 gCatechinsEpigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), Theaflavins
Turmeric2,213 mg/100 gCurcuminoidsGingerol, Fisetin, Rutin, Caffeic acid
Red Grapes52-490 mg/100 gResveratrolQuercetin, Anthocyanins, Proanthocyanidins
Olive Oil620-3500 mg/100 gOleuropeinHydroxytyrosol, Tyrosol, Oleocanthal
Broccoli989 mg/100 gSulforaphaneQuercetin, Kaempferol, Isothiocyanates
Dark Chocolate1,664 mg/100 gFlavanolsTheobromine, Caffeine, Procyanidins
Soybeans244-362 mg/100 gGenisteinDaidzein, Glycitein, Isoflavones
Cranberries507–709 mg/100 gProanthocyanidinsEllagic acid, Quercetin, Anthocyanins
Citrus Fruits160-200 mg/100 gHesperidinNaringenin, Rutin, Caffeic acid
Spinach119 mg/100 g LuteolinZeaxanthin, Beta-carotene, Kaempferol
Almonds187 mg/100 g Ellagic acidCatechins, Quercetin, Proanthocyanidins
Avocado89-309 mg/100 gOleic AcidLutein, Vitamin E, Beta-sitosterol
Chia Seeds88-210 mg/100 gKaempferolQuercetin, Caffeic acid, Omega-3 fatty acids
Pomegranate55-90 mg/100 gPunicalaginsEllagic acid, Anthocyanins, Flavonols
Oats38-62 mg/100 gAvenanthramidesBeta-glucans, Ferulic acid, Phytic acid
Walnuts28 mg/100 gEllagitanninsOmega-3 fatty acids, Melatonin, Vitamin E
Oranges190 mg/100 gHesperidinNaringenin, Vitamin C, Anthocyanins
Kale256-531 mg/100 gQuercetinKaempferol, Lutein, Vitamin K
Blackberries248 mg/100 gAnthocyaninsEllagic acid, Proanthocyanidins, Catechins
Barley204–225 mg/100 gFerulic acidBeta-glucans, Lignans, Saponins
Apples136 mg/100 gQuercetinCatechins, Procyanidins, Chlorogenic acid
Grapes280-4900 mg/100 gResveratrolQuercetin, Anthocyanins, Proanthocyanidins
Cabbage135 – 257 mg/100 gKaempferolQuercetin, Luteolin, Sulforaphane
Green Beans51-59 mg/100 gEpicatechinCatechins, Gallic acid, Rutin
Onions168 mg/100 gQuercetinSulfur compounds, Anthocyanins, Vitamin C
Eggplant740-1430 mg/100 gNasuninChlorogenic acid, Anthocyanins
Strawberries225 mg/100 gEllagic acidAnthocyanins, Proanthocyanidins, Catechins
Seaweed80-260 mg/100 gEcklonia cavaFucoxanthin, Fucoidan, Alginate, Carrageenan, Laminarin, Chlorophyll
GoldensealUnknownBerberineHydrastine, Palmatine, Canadine
Barberry330 mg/100 gBerberineBerbamine, Palmatine, Oxyacanthine
Oregon grape1000 g/100 gBerberinePalmatine, Columbamine, Jatrorrhizine
Milk thistle seeds62 mg/100 gSilymarinSilybin A, Silybin B, Isosilybin A, Isosilybin B
Passionflower248 mg/100 gChrysinApigenin, Luteolin
Red berries215 mg/100 gCyanidinPelargonidin, Delphinidin
Scutellaria baicalensis370-500 mg/100 gBaicaleinBaicalin, Wogonin, Oroxylin A

As you can see, the cliche “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” likely has to do with their polyphenol levels.

I always recommend optimizing your intake of natural polyphenol sources before using supplement isolates.

In addition to food, you can also get your polyphenols by ingesting plant tinctures.

The Many Health Benefits of Polyphenols

Despite their lesser-known status, researchers have extensively studied polyphenols since the early days of modern scientific research.

A mere perusal through PubMed of the term “polyphenol” yields a whopping 67,000 results!

PubMed statistics on the term "polyphenols"
Constantly growing research and interest in polyphenols over the years

It’s hard to compile all the research on polyphenols since they technically constitute a class of thousands of different substances (and that number’s constantly growing).

A 2021 review even lamented the difficulty of studying this family of substances [R].

Many of the studies are also epidemiological—highlighting correlations between intake and associations with beneficial outcomes. Rather than showing causation (i.e., consuming 5 grams of blueberries daily increased BDNF levels by 10%).

Some of the many benefits of polyphenols include improving [R, R, R, R, R, R]:

  • Body composition (fat loss and lean muscle gain)
  • Performance (athletic & mental)
  • Gut health & microbiome optimization
  • Balancing immunity
  • Heart health & biomarker improvements
  • Protection against damage
  • Conditions (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer)

Polyphenols benefit just about every organ system and parameter of human health.

Not just humans, but feeding ruminants polyphenols makes animal products healthier [R].

How do they work? Not long after, scientists attributed their benefits simply to antioxidation. But that’s not it. Further study revealed,

“…multifarious effects within intra- and inter-cellular signaling pathways, such as regulating nuclear transcription factors and fat metabolism, and modulating the synthesis of inflammatory mediators including cytokines tumor necrosis factor α, interleukin (IL)-1β, and IL-6. For example, certain flavonoids have been shown to have a role in glucoregulation through downstream signaling that increases insulin secretion, reduces apoptosis, promotes β-cell proliferation, and reduces insulin resistance, inflammation, and oxidative stress in muscle and other cells”

The effects of polyphenols and other bioactives on human health

These free radical protectors seem to positively impact virtually every bodily system and process, with a special affinity for improving everything related to gut health.

Immune-centric health

The gut microbiome and immune system require two main fuel nutrients to thrive: amino acids, & fiber.

The immune system intricately connects muscle growth and repair, biological aging, weight loss, hormone levels, neurotransmitter production, sleep, and various systems essential for thriving.

As with most of the developed world, 90-95% of Americans don’t eat enough fiber or polyphenols. Neither makes you feel full, but your gut microbiome loves them. Microbes take the food you eat (specifically, polyphenols) and use them to create an entire class of secondary bioactive molecules (called postbiotic metabolites).

These postbiotic substances (like butyrate and urolithin-A) have extremely protective and potent health-optimizing benefits. So much so that supplement companies sell them as individual ingredients.

And postbiotics are one of the untapped frontiers of the future of medicine.

Macrophages are a vital type of immune cell. Polyphenols modulate their activity to better defend against pathogens and help shift the state of your immune system from inflammatory to anti-inflammatory.

They do this by quelling the production of pro-inflammatory molecules, such as cytokines and chemokines.

Balancing your immune system is core to optimal human health.

Gut microbiome & digestion

An infographic on how polyphenols benefit gut microbiome and digestion
Source: Fabbrini et al.

You’ve likely heard the gut microbiome called “the second brain”. It’s that important.

Polyphenols are well known to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria while slowing pathogenic bacteria Share on X

Polyphenols help strengthen the gut barrier, which reduces the risk of inflammation and prevents harmful substances from entering your bloodstream. Gut barrier strength helps prevent infections & maintains your immune health.

These benefits partially occur because of the metabolites created by gut microbiota fermentation [R].

Plus, polyphenols can interact with digestive enzymes to improve digestion and nutrient absorption.

Interestingly, certain polyphenols can even reduce feelings of hunger, lower blood sugar, and increase microbiome bacterial diversity [R].

This study showed that the polyphenols in dark chocolate helped protect football athletes from leaky gut by strengthening the gut barrier [R].

Polyphenols’ impact on the gut microbiome is core to their sweeping health benefits.

Longevity & anti-aging

The antioxidant properties of polyphenols can help reduce oxidative damage, potentially contributing to anti-aging effects and overall wellness.

Many of the most powerful and ubiquitous longevity supplements are polyphenols or derived from sources rich in polyphenols.

This class of substance helps improve many of the core factors that cause biological aging. From modulating inflammation back to healthy levels to improving metabolic health, helping balance the gut, and beyond. In all kinds of cells throughout the body [R].

That’s why countless scientific reviews show that polyphenol consumption strongly correlates with life expectancy (all-cause mortality).

Some of my favorite studies include:

  • Flavonoid intake and cardiovascular disease mortality in a prospective cohort of US adults [R]
  • Association of flavonoid-rich foods and flavonoids with risk of all-cause mortality [R]
  • Reduced mortality risk by a polyphenol-rich diet: An analysis from the Moli-sani study [R]
  • Polyphenol intake and mortality: A nationwide cohort study in the adult population of Spain [R]
  • Dietary Intake of (Poly)phenols and Risk of All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality in the Mexican Teachers’ Cohort Study [R]
  • Habitual dietary intake of flavonoids and all-cause and cause-specific mortality: Golestan cohort study [R]
  • Dietary intake of total polyphenols and the risk of all-cause and specific-cause mortality in Japanese adults: the Takayama study [R]

Each of these shows that polyphenol intake protects against disease and reduces the risk of dying from any causes.

The Mediterranean diet contains high levels of lifespan-extending, polyphenol-rich foods like olive oil [R].

Plus, increasing polyphenol intake during weight loss efforts may slow down the rate of brain aging [R].

Every longevity plan should include sources of polyphenols.

Immunity

Immunity has an intimate connection to the gut. The greater your gut bioharmony, the more resilient your immune system.

Contrary to popular belief, the immune system requires inflammation to mount necessary responses. In the right amount and timing, inflammation improves health.

Polyphenols bolster this system by altering the production of pro-inflammatory substances, bringing everything into balance.

They shift macrophages and bacterial populations into healthy states, as well as making other immune cell types work better too.

Cognition & brain function

An infographic on how polyphenol supplementation aids cognitive function
Source: Farang et al.

Nootropics are a class of substances that safely improve brain health and function. Many compounds within the polyphenol family exhibit brain-enhancing properties.

Flavonoid-rich cocoa is well-studied to boost your brainpower. A study of older adults consuming a cacao drink showed increased levels of BDNF—a protein highly correlated with cognitive performance, learning, and memory [R].

But it’s not just cacao polyphenols. Randomized controlled trials also find that flavonoids within fruits and vegetables improve your BDNF levels [R].

Other common polyphenols that impact cognitive performance include EGCG and catechins, two substances within tea.

Plus, polyphenols appear to combine nicely with other cognition-boosting modalities, like exercise, for a synergistic effect [R].

If you have something impairing your memory, like obesity, research suggests that polyphenols can restore your brain function [R].

Then, we have the benefits to energy metabolism, cellular “waste” (oxidative stress), and cerebral blood flow [R, R, R, R, R].

By improving the gut microbiome, polyphenols also indirectly benefit cognition. Via the gut-brain connection, you’d expect that a healthier gut would cause brain health improvements too.

Overall, this family of substances helps the brain work better.

Neuroprotection

Similarly, a fair bit of research has highlighted the brain-protecting potential of many polyphenols.

In addition to acutely improving cognition through BDNF and other mechanisms, they also show neuroprotective properties. Meaning that they can help protect you against the onset of degenerative conditions.

These include substances like quercetin, apigenin, fisetin, turmeric/curcuminoids, resveratrol, and specific flavonoids like anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, flavones, flavan-3-ols, flavonols, flavanones, and isoflavones [R].

Specifically, some of these were associated with protection against mild cognitive impairment and dementia [R, R].

Making them an excellent dietary choice for athletes at increased risk of TBI, as well as the elderly.

Exercise recovery

Athletes and bodybuilders sometimes use polyphenol supplements for a slight recovery edge. That’s because they have a variety of effects on sports & fitness-related recovery.

Intense exercise causes inflammation, which induces soreness (D.O.M.S). Bringing inflammation back to healthy levels, at the right time, allows athletes to train again sooner and with less pain. Helping them perform better [R].

Especially when the exercise-induced muscle damage exceeds the body’s capacity to handle it effectively.

Polyphenols from many different fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices appear to help [R].

Enhanced work recovery appears to come from the polyphenolic role as antioxidants which explains their ability to reduce markers of muscle stress.

Interestingly, these improve recovery without blunting the beneficial adaptation effect of training [R].

Athletes needing to recover their strength post-exercise quickly may want to consider polyphenols.

Athletic performance & muscle

Many of the studies on the link between polyphenols and recovery also note increased overall athletic performance.

As previously mentioned, part of this stems from the accelerated recovery speed. The faster you recover, the sooner you can train again.

Some research even suggests that,

“…acute supplementation with ~ 300 mg polyphenols 1–2 h prior to exercise may enhance exercise capacity and/or performance during endurance and repeated sprint exercise via antioxidant and vascular mechanisms.”

Fruit-Derived Polyphenol Supplementation for Athlete Recovery and Performance

Indeed, polyphenols can reduce perceived exertion during endurance efforts, improving the exerciser’s ability to maintain intense efforts [R].

A 2024 systematic review of the evidence just discovered that polyphenols can enhance certain parameters of aerobic endurance and fat burning [R].

This study found that “Well-trained males exhibited small, significant benefits following polyphenol, but not nitrate consumption.” [R].

Although those effects showed that elite athletes still benefit, the overall evidence suggests that non-athletes and beginners gain the most [R].

Even some of the less-known substances appear helpful,

“This review summarizes the existing evidence supporting a beneficial effect of fruit-derived polyphenols on various biological processes and outlines the potential for black elderberry ingestion to improve nitric oxide production, exercise performance, and the associated physiological responses before-, during- and post-exercise.”

The Efficacy of Administering Fruit-Derived Polyphenols to Improve Health Biomarkers, Exercise Performance and Related Physiological Responses

Improved mitochondrial function is another key mechanism explaining how polyphenols increase athletic performance [R].

Polyphenols show tremendous promise to delay fatigue and increase athletic performance—without blunting the vital hormetic adaptations [R].

Beauty & skincare

Most people consume dietary polyphenols, but topical application has become popular. Skincare and other personal care products often include one or more polyphenols in their formulas.

This family of ingredients can help reduce oxidative skin damage, minimize skin aging, and slow UVB-induced keratinocyte death.

I find that one particularly interesting.

Polyphenols can help protect the skin against DNA-damaging UV exposure Share on X

They’ve been shown effective against melanoma and enhance the antioxidant properties of skincare products [R].

You won’t get all the benefits of orally ingested polyphenols from topical skincare applications, but I foresee this use case continuing to grow at a rapid rate.

Bodily protection against chronic disease

The body's immune system defending against toxins & harmful substances
Choosing the right food gives your body the polyphenols needed to defend against chronic diseases

Age is the biggest risk factor for virtually all chronic degenerative diseases.

Polyphenols show impressive links to protecting against many of them.

As mentioned previously, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, general dementia, and other neurodegenerative diseases.

But also cardiovascular disease, cancer, & type 2 diabetes.

This is likely through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as reducing cellular waste and many other potential mechanisms.

Cardiometabolic biomarkers & health

Blood is like motor oil for the human body, and you can tell a lot about health status based on blood lab results alone. Polyphenols show great promise to improve countless different biomarkers and biometrics of health.

For example, anthocyanins improve blood lipids [R]. Resveratrol & catechins have anti-obesogenic, anti-atherosclerosis, and cardioprotective benefits.

Epicatechin, a polyphenol in dark chocolate and green tea, protects rats from heart attack (myocardial infarction) [R].

Another study determined that “Polyphenol-rich foods like nuts, fruits, vegetables, spices, & olive oil may play a role in preventing the development and progression of Metabolic Syndrome” [R].

Citrus flavonoids improve endothelial function [R].

Association research shows that increased intake correlates with better “blood pressure, endothelial function, glucose metabolism, inflammation, oxidative stress biomarkers, platelet function, and cholesterol…” [R, R, R, R, R]

So you get a vast array of potential cardiovascular, metabolic, and other blood biomarker improvements. Combined with incredible safety profiles, these substances should become a foundational component of nutrition plans.

Anti-inflammatory

Chronic, long-term rampant inflammation both correlates and has a causative effect with most diseases.

Most powerful anti-inflammatories come with a long list of potentially serious consequences. And they work indiscriminately to blunt all inflammation Share on X

Yet inflammation, at the right dose & time, causes a powerful and beneficial signal throughout the body.

For example, the immune system wouldn’t work without inflammation.

Polyphenols help prevent systemic and/or localized inflammation by restoring the redox balance. Essentially, reducing oxidative stress and modulating inflammatory responses through mitigation of cytokine pathways.

Some of the inflammatory pathways/substances polyphenols improve include [R]:

  • CRP
  • TNF-α
  • IL-6

Yet, as this randomized controlled trial showed, participants with knee osteoarthritis taking a polyphenol supplement improved pain & inflammation, AND physical function [R]. Potentially showing that they don’t impair beneficial inflammation.

This family of substances combines nicely with other anti-inflammatory therapies.

Blood sugar levels

Human life requires sugar, but within a narrow band. Too much or too little causes cellular damage.

Today, chronically high blood sugar plagues most of the world.

Many of the common blood sugar management drugs come with significant side effects. One of the most popular is metformin. That’s why I wrote this post on the best blood sugar-lowering metformin alternatives.

But what if instead of taking one of those, you could just consume more polyphenols?

Indeed, certain polyphenolic substances like the class of anthocyanins appear quite useful. Berries contain lots of anthocyanins, and they’re associated with improved fasting glucose, overall glucose tolerance, and insulin sensitivity.

By protecting the beta cells from glucose toxicity & improving glycemic control, they’re even implicated in the prevention & management of type 2 diabetes.

It’s not just anthocyanins though. Entirely different subcategories of polyphenols also show blood sugar benefits [R].

Weight loss & anti-obesity

Some of the hottest supplements on the market claim to accelerate weight loss, yet they have little to no evidence.

A wide range of polyphenols, however, show interesting anti-obesity & weight loss benefits. How?

Certain polyphenolic substances stimulate β-oxidation, inhibit adipocyte differentiation, counteract oxidative stress, reduce fat cell creation, modulate enzymes, increase total energy expenditure, alter the gut microbiota, SCFA generation, and other mechanisms that scientists are beginning to uncover [R, R, R].

Some of the polyphenol-containing substances showing fat loss potential include:

  • Turmeric/curcumin
  • Green tea (even decaffeinated) [R, R]
  • Black tea [R]
  • Solanum nigrum [R]
  • Bergamot [R]
  • Apples [R]

We may soon add dark chocolate to that list too [R].

Plus, other polyphenols like anthocyanins reduce some unhealthy side effects of obesity such as chronic inflammation [R].

As discussed later, polyphenols also indirectly improve weight loss efforts by suppressing appetite and cravings (as natural GLP-1 agonists).

The magnitude of the effect is quite small, but the pleiotropic benefits of many of these substances make them excellent additions to fat loss stacks.

Anti-cancer

Cancer is the incidence of uncontrolled cell growth.

Flavonoids, such as anthocyanins, catechins, and flavones, may neutralize free radicals. thereby, decreasing the risk of various cancers, like colon, prostate, epithelial, endometrial, and breast cancer.

Certain polyphenols interact with gut bacteria and as a result, exert antitumor effects. For example, the natural substance castalagin derived from the camu-camu berry promotes anticancer responses [R].

Interactions with the gut microbiota also may protect against gastric cancer [R].

Polyphenols in black tea (like EGCG, theaflavins, and thearubigins) have strong anticancer properties [R, R]. Not just from tea, but other polyphenols as well [R].

Some research suggests that polyphenols may deserve a spot to enhance the effectiveness of anti-cancer protocols.

Anxiety & depression symptoms

Polyphenols impact brain health, function, and also mood.

Anxiety is characterized by a vigilance disorder of the brain, while depression correlates with neuroelectrochemical imbalances.

Though there’s less evidence, polyphenols may naturally and safely help stabilize both mood imbalances.

This 2023 meta-analysis of the available research concluded exactly that, “Our findings suggest that flavonoids might improve symptoms of depression and anxiety.” [R].

Making polyphenols an inexpensive, safe, and interesting addition to any mood supplement stack.

Appetite suppression (natural GLP-1 alternatives)

These drugs mimic a hormone peptide (GLP-1) the body naturally produces after eating to cause the feeling of fullness and satisfaction. Only these drugs are stronger and much longer lasting.

Over time, this can lead to profound weight loss.

One interesting study titled The Antidiabetic Mechanisms of Polyphenols Related to Increased Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 (GLP1) and Insulin Signaling had the following to say about it (emphasis mine),

“The evidence suggests that polyphenols from various sources stimulate L-cells to secrete GLP1, increase its half-life by inhibiting dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP4), stimulate β-cells to secrete insulin and stimulate the peripheral response to insulin, increasing the overall effects of the GLP1-insulin axis… Some polyphenols appear to exert their effects similarly to pharmaceutical antidiabetics…”

Other more recent research concurs [R].

As this 2024 study concluded, even the “poorly absorbed” polyphenols have other benefits, like increasing GLP-1 levels [R].

Polyphenols appear to be some of the best and safest natural alternatives to GLP-1 drugs.

The Best Polyphenol Supplements & Products

My recommended polyphenolrich products, supplements, red powders, fisetin, and NAD+ Max
Use supplements or products if you’re not getting enough polyphenols daily

Although you’ll find polyphenols in many natural foods, supplements are another great route to increase your daily intake.

I take a two-pronged approach

  • General polyphenol-rich powders
  • Targeted supplements

This is the modern polyphenol protocol.

Red powders

Personally, I’m a huge fan of using berry powders, especially red powders.

Some of the best include:

  • Organifi Red Juice
  • Naked Nutrition Super Reds
  • Layer Origin Simple Reds

These contain berries and are excellent sources of anthocyanins.

You want to look for a small mix of the best red polyphenols & berries like strawberries, blueberries, goji berries, acai berries, raspberries, blackberries, & maqui berries.

To get a large enough dose of these potent polyphenol-rich berries, avoid products that have 10 or more different ingredients all in one.

Simply add a scoop or two in water, milk, or a shake for a delicious treat. Or, you can add them to foods like yogurt or cereal for both flavor and a nutritional upgrade.

I use these most days and they’re also excellent for mitochondria/energy.

To get the full benefits, you’ll need to consume a lot of substance. So I recommend polyphenol-rich powders over pills or tablets.

Top polyphenol-rich supplements

Compared to most supplement categories, few products focus on providing the full spectrum of polyphenols.

My favorite polyphenol tablet supplement is MitoZen’s NAD+ Max. Each dose gives you awesome polyphenols like fisetin, ginkgo, lutein, quercetin, & resveratrol. As well as supportive ingredients that help you best assimilate & use the polyphenols.

Or, you can take individual ingredients. If you want to explore those, you can check them out here:

  • The Ultimate Biohacker’s Guide to Fisetin
  • The Ultimate Biohacker’s Guide to Quercetin
  • The Ultimate Biohacker’s Guide to Apigenin
  • The Ultimate Biohacker’s Guide to Resveratrol

Each of these ingredients tends to work better when combined with a full-spectrum natural source of polyphenols like berries (or food-derived powders).

Once you choose your ideal polyphenol powders, pills, tablets, or capsules, you’re ready for the next step.

Polyphenol Synergy: How Biohackers Stack Polyphenols for Maximum Results

Ideally, consume a diet rich in natural sources of polyphenols.

If you’re curious about exactly how many polyphenols to consume per day, I recommend 1,500mg to 2,500mg. The long-lived Japanese benefit from their intake, and they average 1492 ± 665 mg/day [R].

Given the overall safety and the tremendous therapeutic window, you’re better off targeting the upper range.

Unfortunately, there isn’t great data on optimal intake though.

Many, but not all, tend to work best when combined.

I recommend simply consuming a daily serving of several of the following:

  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Cocoa
  • Berries
  • Pistachios
  • Cranberries
  • Chamomile
  • Celery
  • Pomegranate
  • Walnuts
  • Mangoes
  • Kiwi
  • Onions
  • Cucumbers

If you cook, consider adding some spices like parsley, thyme, basil, oregano, ginger, & turmeric.

Whatever you consume, certainly choose organic to get the highest possible polyphenols levels [R].

This class of supplement combines nicely with other antioxidants, mitochondrial enhancers, synbiotics (prebiotics + probiotics), workout supplements, and even nootropics.

Usually, these phenolic substances help shield cells from the damage caused by hard work. Which is especially helpful when boosting the performance of the brain, body, & energy generation process.

But there’s something even more important.

Biohacking polyphenol bioavailability: level up your absorption

Phenols are a family of volatile substances.

Unfortunately, combining them with certain things can reduce or even completely negate their benefits.

Some foods and substances that reduce the health benefits of polyphenols include:

  1. Phytate
  2. Calcium
  3. Proteins
  4. Milk
  5. Soy
  6. Bananas
  7. Beet greens
  8. Apples
  9. Pears
  10. Peaches
  11. Avocados
  12. Potatoes
  13. Eggplants
  14. Mushrooms
  15. Lettuce
  16. Cauliflower

Scientists still don’t fully understand how most of these substances blunt the benefits of polyphenol intake.

Calcium, soy, proteins, phytates, and milk all bind to the polyphenols and render them inert.

Certain fruits & vegetables recently made headlines as they can dramatically reduce levels by up to 84% [R]! This is because an enzyme naturally present in the above products, called polyphenol oxidase (PPO), reduces the bioavailability of flavanols [R].

For the strongest benefits, avoid combining polyphenols with bananas, apples, pears, peaches, dairy, or protein.

Common Questions & Answers for Dietary Polyphenols

Does the absorption/bioavailability of polyphenols matter?

You’ll only get certain benefits with high-absorption polyphenols. Yet even the polyphenols with lower bioavailability cause other important health benefits. For general health, the absorption doesn’t matter as long as you avoid the foods that deactivate polyphenols.

What time of the day should I use polyphenol supplements?

Polyphenols are best consumed away from meals, ideally in the morning or evening. In the morning, certain types encourage energy production and blood sugar stability (despite their carb content). In the evening, they promote sleep and microbiome health. You should consume any caffeine-containing polyphenol supplements earlier in the day.

What are the side effects of polyphenols?

Polyphenols consumed through the diet rarely have side effects. Even polyphenol supplements are generally considered safe when used as directed. The side effects caused by taking large doses of single-ingredient polyphenol isolates depend on the particular ingredient.

What dosage of polyphenols should I take per day?

1,500mg – 2,500mg of total polyphenols per day is ideal for health, especially when consumed across a wide variety of substances (coffee, tea, berries, etc). To a point, the more polyphenols you consume daily, the better. Few people can naturally exceed this limit.

Polyphenols: The Super Nutrients Powering Most Health Foods

Beyond calories, macros (carbs, protein, fat), & even micros (vitamins & minerals), this is another glaring example of food as biological information.

The quality of that information matters. Organic produce experiences far higher levels of “stress”, and thus they create more biological defense compounds known as polyphenols.

Scientists call this process “xenohormesis”. When consumed by humans, these bioactive substances confer greater resilience against all forms of stressors, upregulate antioxidants and detoxification, and activate key longevity pathways.

In fact, some of these xenohormetics mimic the beneficial effects of caloric restriction, exercise, and even induce a longevity cleanup program called autophagy.

Unfortunately, 90-95% of Americans don’t consume enough polyphenols.

Keto, carnivore, or otherwise, the evidence suggests including polyphenols in your diet.

They’re in virtually all natural foods, and polyphenols explain many of the health benefits of “superfoods”.

Many industries have keen interests in this class of substances. Yet polyphenols are sensitive to heat and the elements. Exposure degrades them rapidly [R].

So the best way to get enough is through an optimal diet and additional targeted supplementation.

I hope that you find this family of substances as fascinating as I do. Just like I predicted with therapeutic peptides, I foresee many drugs and medicines in the future coming from this realm.

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Post Tags: Anti-Aging, Biohacking, Lifestyle, Longevity, Nutrition, Recovery & Resilience, Supplements

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