I’ve always told my patients they need to get more antioxidants – substances that fight aging – through fruits, vegetables and other foods. But, there’s more to the anti-aging picture than just antioxidants. You also need anti-inflammatories and anti-carcinogenics as well. Now, researchers have proven that certain compounds in common foods contain all of these substances and do, in fact, extend your life – by 30%! Here’s what I’ve learned about these fabulous compounds…
Extend Your Life 30% Eating More Polyphenols
Nature created certain compounds that are the biggest gift we could have ever hoped for in our quest to stay healthy as we live longer. These compounds are called polyphenols and they are present in abundance in many of the common foods we eat – or should be eating – every day. Recently, research published in the Journal of Nutrition revealed that older people who had a greater intake of polyphenols had a 30% reduction in mortality.
The researchers – a collaborative team of Italian and Americans – reported that the results of their study on 807 Italian men and women aged 65 and over was achieved by looking at specific nutritional biomarkers. Specifically – how much polyphenols were measured in their urine. This allowed the researchers to make more objective estimates of actual intake of the compounds rather than rely on participants memory of what foods they ate and how often. From this they were able to make more reliable and accurate associations between the intake of polyphenols, disease risk and mortality rates.
Polyphenols were found to not only be anti-oxidant, but they contain anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties as well. The researchers concluded that: “Results corroborate scientific evidence suggesting that people consuming diets rich in fruit and vegetables are at lower risk of several chronic diseases and overall mortality.”
What does this mean for you? For one thing, it means that all your efforts to eat more fruits and vegetables (and other foods which I’ll tell you about in a moment) will pay off in improving your health. Not only does fresh produce contain numerous health-boosting vitamins but they contain an abundance of polyphenols. Over 8,000 different phenolic compounds have been discovered in different plants – most of which we eat as foods. Secondly, now we know for sure that eating more of these foods does have a direct influence on how long we live.
Which Foods Contain Polyphenols?
Now that you know about the life-extending qualities of these compounds, I’m sure you’ll want to include more foods containing them in your diet. Here are the richest food sources of polyphenols:
1. Fruits. All berries, apples (leave the skin on, just wash it!), citrus fruits (except grapefruit and pineapple), pit fruits (peaches, plums, apricots), cooked tomatoes.
2. Vegetables. Dark green leafy vegetables like kale, broccoli, etc; root vegetables like parsnips, turnips; tubers like sweet potatoes; onions (scallions, reds, white, yellow), leeks, garlic, eggplant, fennel, peppers.
3. Nuts. All mixed nuts and seeds (pumpkin, flax and sunflower) – forego the salt though.
4. Legumes. All beans, peanuts, peas.
5. Whole grain cereals. In order of highest to lowest polyphenols: Whole wheat, corn, oats, and rice. Even popcorn contains polyphenols! Just eat it smartly without all the salt and butter.
6. Coffee and tea. Even your morning cup of “Joe” and afternoon spot of tea can boost your health. Best choices are black tea, green tea, oolong, caffeinated or decaf.
7. Wine. French red wines are highest in polyphenols, but only slightly over California wines, including Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Egiodola, Syrah, Grenache (a very dark purple/black French/Sardinian) wine.
8. Chocolate. Choose high cocoa powder content of 70% or better. This can be in bars (just choose a sugar-free variety or sweetened with stevia) or make your own cocoa.
9. Spices. Many common kitchen spices contain high levels of polyphenols, so make frequent use of them in your cooking! These include cinnamon, garlic, rosemary, sage, basil, chives, oregano, parsley, tarragon and thyme.
10. Condiments. Mustard contains turmeric – high in polyphenols. Ketchup made from tomatoes can add polyphenol content – yet find a variety that doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup. Horseradish is also high in polyphenols as are dill pickles.
As you can see, there are a lot of common foods, from breakfast, to dinner, to sweet or savory snacks, that are high in health promoting polyphenols. Include more of these foods and their life-extending properties in your daily meals and you too can live 30% longer!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.