Polyphenol Paradise: 40 Surprisingly Delicious Foods For Energy & Anti-Aging

Polyphenol – Quick Summary

  • Polyphenols are an essential component in long term health and vitality.
  • They can boost your energy levels, improve athletic performance, have anti-aging effects, and can help deter chronic illness, cancer, and glucose instability.
  • Found in vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, cacao, and other nutrient dense foods.
  • 40 delicious polyphenol-rich foods you should eat regularly. 


Why You Should Care About Polyphenols

Polyphenols are one of my favorite things to talk about. Their short and long term benefits are completely mind blowing. It makes me wonder why everyone on earth isn’t going around shouting about them.

And then I remember that the Standard American Diet has a lot of people pacified into a chronic state of sluggish lethargy and a cyclical pattern of sugar, sleep deprivation, weight gain, pills, and more sugar.

For those caught in that energy-robbing cycle, adding polyphenols to a low quality diet and sedentary lifestyle isn’t going to fix any issues.

But pairing polyphenols with a ketogenic diet and simple fitness can improve your life in some remarkable ways (I’ll get to those in a moment).


Polyphenol Basics

Polyphenols are technically phytochemicals, which are commonly found in plants that have lots of antioxidants. 1)https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2013/825928/ 2)https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/12/14/polyphenols-benefits.aspx

When you eat polyphenols you get to enjoy the benefits of these antioxidants. 3)http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/flavonoids-good-for-3158.html

Antioxidants(the polyphenols) from plants are good for your body because they play a defensive role against damage from toxins, UV radiation, pathogens, and free radicals. The better the defense against these unwanted substances, the slower you age. 4)https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/12/14/polyphenols-benefits.aspx 5)https://jdmdonline.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2251-6581-12-43 6)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835915/ 7)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000398611400174X?via%3Dihub 8)https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/tea-fact-sheet#q3

There are over 500 kinds of polyphenols that can be subcategorized as:

  1. Flavonoids
  2. Phenolic Acids
  3. Stilbenes
  4. Lignans 9)https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319728.php 10)https://www.nutritionadvance.com/nutrition/top-food-sources-polyphenols/

Since there doesn’t seem to be a particular type of polyphenol that’s better than another, you don’t have to be too concerned with the function of each type. That’s lucky for you, because there are over 4000 types of flavonoids alone. 11)http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/flavonoids-good-for-3158.html

You also don’t have to worry about overdosing on polyphenols, because ingestion is quite safe even when consuming high levels. There are also no side effects to worry about. 12)https://jdmdonline.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2251-6581-12-43

In fact, Dr. Michael Smith of the Life Extension Foundation advocates that diets liberal in polyphenols “have been shown in studies to provide many health benefits and also a 30% reduction in the risk of dying.” 13)http://peopleunlimitedinc.com/posts/2017/7/26/polyphenols-mitochondria-support-and-other-anti-aging-dietary-strategies

This means having a higher vitality for longer. Along with long term benefits, experts say that there are excellent short term implications from polyphenol-rich intake strategies.

Which leads me to the health benefits of polyphenols. 

Improved Energy Levels

The secret to life is having high energy levels to dominate at work, have plenty of fun, and to generally crush it at life. The couch is no place for someone with high energy levels – because they’d rather be doing something else.

Your overall energy levels are determined by how well your mitochondria are operating.

Mitochondria are the batteries of the cells. The power of your mitochondria is the result of efficient production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is made using the energy from the food you eat. 14)hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/Biology/mitochondria.html 15)https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/mitochondria-14053590

Mitochondrial energy output is also determined by how you sleep, a state of panic called hormesis, your fitness routine, artificial junk light, and other things. 

If your mitochondria aren’t producing peak energy, you can feel chronically tired. That’s where polyphenols come in. In combination with other healthy practices like the ketogenic diet, polyphenols play a role in boosting mitochondria function.

In fact, an increasing number of studies show that polyphenols have multiple effects on your mitochondria.

“Cumulative evidence showed that the aforementioned polyphenols improve mitochondrial functions in different in vitro and in vivo experiments. The mechanisms underlying the polyphenols’ beneficial effects include, among others, the attenuation of oxidative stress, the regulation of mitochondrial metabolism and biogenesis and the modulation of cell-death signaling cascades, among other mitochondrial-independent effects.” 16)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28554320

Another study confirms the positive relationship between polyphenols and mitochondria.

“The present review describes recent evidence on the ability of some polyphenols to modulate each of the formerly mentioned pathways, and discusses on how, by acting on such mitochondrial processes, polyphenols may afford protection against those mitochondrial damaging events that appear to be key in the cellular toxicity induced by various xenobiotics as well as that seen during the development of several ROS-related diseases.” 17)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000398611400174X?via%3Dihub

Question: what’s the first thing you do when your phone, car battery, or laptop dies? You charge it.

It blows my mind that when facing a radical lack of mitochondrial energy (your personal battery), people don’t immediately start purposefully charging back up.

Instead, many people continue making things worse by drinking energy drinks, staying up late, allowing blue light frequencies to chemically keep them awake, and doing all kinds of other things that are the opposite of recharging yourself to full capacity.

If you find yourself chronically depleted of energy, take control of your life again and start getting some high polyphenol foods in your diet (I’ll get to those in a bit).


Polyphenols & Performance

I always seem to herd my presentations back around to human performance. I know, I’m a broken record. Energy levels, performance potential, energy levels, performance potential…

That’s probably not going to change, since those are two of the most noticeable improvements you can make to your life.

Research shows that performance and muscle recovery can be improved through polyphenols.

“…polyphenolic compounds that have been demonstrated both to exert a significant effect in exercise-induced muscle damage and to play a biological/physiological role in improving physical performance.” 18)https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2013/825928/

The same research also shows that catechins, a specific type of polyphenols found in green tea, can help:

  1. Stop the loss of muscle force.
  2. Lessen damage incurred during workouts.
  3. Counteract negative oxidation.
  4. Improve fat oxidation (excellent in conjunction with a ketogenic diet).
  5. Increase insulin sensitivity. 19)https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2013/825928/

It shouldn’t be surprising that adding more polyphenols to your diet can improve your physical performance potential, since they also also increase mitochondrial energy.

Studies also show that improved athletic performance is a direct result from using polyphenols to increase mitochondria energy levels.

“Polyphenols operate at several levels including gene activation which leads to increased mitochondrial efficiency and increased blood flow to deliver more oxygen to the mitochondria. In particular, replacing damaged mitochondria while simultaneously replacing them with newly synthesized mitochondria is a key function of polyphenols.  Since mitochondria supply 85-95% of the energy to a muscle cell, the more efficient the mitochondria are, the greater the athletic performance.” 20)https://blog.zonediet.com/drsears/blog/importance-polyphenols-sports-performance

So for everyone going to the gym (just once per week, I hope), get your polyphenol plan in order so you can make the most of all you physical effort.


The Anti-Aging Effect Of Polyphenols

One of the most interesting things about polyphenols is their ability to keep you young and delay the aging process. A lot of additional research is being done to better understand how this process works, but previous studies already reveal positive news.

One study shows that polyphenols protect against aging and a slew of other unwanted problems.

“Polyphenols or polyphenol rich diets provide significant protection against the development and progression of many chronic pathological conditions including cancer, diabetes, cardio-vascular problems and aging….Polyphenols are also beneficial in ameliorating the adverse effects of the aging on nervous system or brain.” 21)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835915/https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835915/

A different study has quite a bit to say about the relationship between anti-aging and flavonoids, one of the four main categories of polyphenols.

“Their [flavonoids] general net function is anti-stress and anti-wear and tear, helping to preserve the structure of the proteins of genes so that they can function in a healthy way. This reduces the number of damaged and misfolded proteins, which eventually become noticeable in the plaque-tangles of cognitive decline and cardiovascular disease. Their ability to preserve structural components down to the gene level is a main reason for their anti-aging benefit which provided the reduced risk for all-cause mortality.” 22)https://www.wellnessresources.com/news/disease-prevention-anti-aging-benefits-of-flavonoids

The bottom line is that polyphenols have a real anti-aging effect. That means that the extra antioxidants you eat can fight off oxidation, toxins, pathogens, and free radicals – leaving your cells to focus on longevity and homeostasis.


Long Term Polyphenol Protection

The lifetime effects of polyphenols are quite powerful, as they can help fight off many types of diseases.

One study shows a broad reduction of multiple diseases when eating polyphenols.

“Epidemiological studies have repeatedly shown an inverse association between the risk of chronic human diseases and the consumption of polyphenolic rich diet.” 23)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835915/

Other research is more specific, and provides further evidence that polyphenols play a key role in preventing cardiovascular diseases, cancers, osteoporosis, age-related human diseases, and perhaps even neurodegenerative diseases and diabetes. 24)https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/81/1/215S/4607494


Several studies even show that polyphenols can have a positive impact on cancer patients, and “is most often protective and induce a reduction of the number of tumors or of their growth.” 25)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835915/ 26)https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/tea-fact-sheet#q3

Many cancer cells thrive on glucose. And when adapted to the ketogenic diet, there is far less glucose in the body. As such, a ketogenic diet causes cancerous cells to starve. 27)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5450454/ 28)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5624453/ 29)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4215472/

This is another reason that makes the ketogenic diet and polyphenols a winning combination.

Glucose Stability

One of the biggest epidemics in America is glucose instability, a vicious cycle of carbohydrate and sugar bingeing. This creates a dependency on sugar and a cyclical spike in blood glucose, the release of insulin, another spike, more insulin, and eventually insulin resistance and diabetes. 30)https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/symptoms-causes 31)https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/type-2-diabetes#1 32)https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-causes.html 33)https://www.medicinenet.com/diabetes_mellitus/article.htm#what_is_type_2_diabetes

There’s still no magic pill, workout, or newly discovered vegetable that can counteract all your poor habits of low quality food intake, nonexistent fitness routine, and chronic sleep deprivation…and there never will be a pill like that.

You can’t put a puzzle together without the pieces. A whole health approach is the only way to optimize vitality, energy, strength, and physique.

Fortunately, polyphenols have also been shown to play a role in regulating metabolic pathways to help bring balance to your body.

“Some polyphenols are able to regulate the key pathways of carbohydrate metabolism and hepatic glucose homeostasis including glycolysis, glycogenesis and gluconeogenesis, usually impaired in diabetes.” 34)https://jdmdonline.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2251-6581-12-43

In combination with a proper diet strategy, activity, and rest, polyphenols can help put all your metabolic puzzle pieces together.


Polyphenol Intake Strategies

Before we start talking about what foods you should considering adding to your diet, there are two points that we have to discuss.

Polyphenols are fat soluble.

This simply means that your body can absorb polyphenols more efficiency if you eat them with some type of high quality fat. 35)https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/12/14/polyphenols-benefits.aspx

That shouldn’t be much of a problem though if you’re using a ketogenic diet (as you should) because 70% of your intake will be coming from high quality fats anyway. Most polyphenols are rich in flavor and can easily be used in combination with fat.

Daily Dosage

Rather than shotgunning a new diet, supplement, or antioxidant, I like to use a more tactical approach. So when I encounter something I’d like to add to my diet, my first question is usually…how much do I need for this to work?

I as mentioned earlier, excess polyphenols won’t hurt you. They’re safe and have no negative side effects or long term effects. 36)https://jdmdonline.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2251-6581-12-43

But one study shows that people who ingest 650 mg per day have a 30% lower mortality rate than those who ingest less than 500 mg per day. 37)https://www.healthline.com/health-news/food-polyphenols-boost-gut-health-and-longevity-121213

So 650 mg per day seems like a solid minimal daily dose of polyphenols.

The upper end is a little less defined. The common goal for the last 25 years has been about 1 gram per day. 38)https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/130/8/2073S/4686322

Doctor Michael Smith from the Life Extension Foundation suggests a daily intake of 1500 mg. 39)http://peopleunlimitedinc.com/posts/2017/7/26/polyphenols-mitochondria-support-and-other-anti-aging-dietary-strategies

I personally aim for the high end (or higher) of the daily dosage range, since no negative effects will present themselves. It’s not very difficult to reach these goals when you’re on a ketogenic diet – it just sort of happens.

Polyphenol-Rich Foods

Many of the normal foods you eat contain polyphenols, including fruits, vegetables, spices (that’s a big one, and a delicious one), tea, high quality red wines, cacao and hyper dark chocolate, and personal favorite…coffee. 40)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835915/ 41)https://blog.bulletproof.com/best-food-for-skin/ 42)https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/81/1/215S/4607494

I absolutely LOVE Bulletproof coffee. Their beans are harvested and stored in a way that alleviates any type of mold or mycotoxin that’s found in most coffee. If you’re going to eat high quality foods, it doesn’t make sense to drink moldy, low quality coffee.

I’m not an affiliate for Bulletproof (I should be, I talk about them all the time), but I highly recommend that you give them a try.

A study resulting in the top 100 polyphenol-rich foods reveals that pretty much any vegetable has some amount of polyphenol, though some have more than others. 43)https://www.nutritionadvance.com/nutrition/top-food-sources-polyphenols/

Let’s get a bit more specific about which foods are teeming with polyphenols. Obviously you’ll want to source local, unaltered, toxin free foods to maximize nutritional value.

Top 10 Polyphenol-Rich Vegetables

  1. Artichoke Heads – 260 mg per 100g
  2. Red Chicory – 235 mg per 100g
  3. Red Onion – 168 mg per 100g
  4. Green Chicory – 166 mg per 100g
  5. Spinach – 119 mg per 100g
  6. Shallot – 113 mg per 100g
  7. Yellow Onion – 74 mg per 100g
  8. Broccoli – 45 mg per 100g
  9. Asparagus 29 – mg per 100g
  10. Red Lettuce – 23 mg per 100g

Top Ten Polyphenol-Rich Herbs & Spices

  1. Cloves – 15,188 mg per 100g
  2. Dried Peppermint – 11,960 mg per 100g
  3. Mexican Oregano – 2,319 mg per 100g
  4. Dried Sage – 1,207 mg per 100g
  5. Dried Rosemary  –1,018 mg per 100g
  6. Dried Spearmint – 956 mg per 100g
  7. Dried Thyme – 878 mg per 100g
  8. Dried Basil – 322 mg per 100g
  9. Curry Powder – 285 mg per 100g
  10. Dried Ginger – 202 mg per 100g

Top Ten Polyphenol-Rich Fruits

  1. Star Anise – 5,460 mg per 100g
  2. Black Chokeberry – 1,759 mg per 100g
  3. Black Elderberries – 1,359 mg per 100g
  4. Wild Lowbush Blueberries – 836 mg per 100g
  5. Blackcurrant – 758 mg per 100g
  6. Black Olives (yes, a fruit) – 569 mg per 100g
  7. Highbush Blueberries – 560 mg per 100g
  8. Plum – 377 mg per 100g
  9. Sweet Cherry – 274 mg per 100g
  10. Blackberry – 260 mg per 100g

Top Ten Polyphenol-Rich Seeds, Nuts, & Beans

  1. Cacao –  3,448 mg per 100g
  2. Celery Seed – 2,094 mg per 100g
  3. Flaxseed Meal – 1,528 mg per 100g
  4. Chestnut – 1,215 mg per 100g
  5. Capers – 654 mg per 100g
  6. Hazelnut – 495 mg per 100g
  7. Pecan – 493 mg per 100g
  8. Roasted Soybean – 246 mg per 100g
  9. Filtered Coffee – 214 mg per 100g
  10. Almonds – 187 mg per 100g

I know there are a lot of numbers to look at here, but don’t panic. Like I said early in this post, a ketogenic diet naturally lends itself to fulfilling your polyphenol needs.


How To Get A High Dose Of Daily Polyphenols

You don’t have to get too technical with your meal planning. Getting more vitality and energy is supposed to be fun and delicious, right? And it is.

For example, you can easily get 2,159 mg (2.159 grams) of polyphenols by adding the following foods into a single day of eating – which is well above the suggested daily dosage of 1 gram to 1.5 grams – with 650 mg as a minimun.

  • Two cups of Bulletproof Coffee.
  • A spinach salad with red onions, mexican oregano, and whatever else you want.
  • A delicious serving of cacao nibs, a couple squares of very dark chocolate, or add a serving of cacao powder to your favorite blended drink.
  • In fact, throw a serving of ground cloves into that drink as well.
  • Snack on some broccoli, maybe with some sour cream if that’s your thing.
  • A handful of pecans.

Mix it up the next day with a handful of organic blueberries or almonds. Or do some meal prep with a fresh Spearmint Ginger Salad with Brain Rocketship Dressing, Trickster Vanilla Pancakes, or Red Ribbon Nachos.

My personal, relaxed guidelines for picking foods every day that are likely high in polyphenols are:

  1. Eat lots of fresh, local vegetables that have exciting colors.
  2. Add lots of fresh herbs and spices to your salads, vegetable snacks, and when cooking meats. Everything tastes better with a potent herb. Mmmmm…tarragon.
  3. Never skip a cup of Bulletproof Coffee, unless its after 2pm.
  4. Have various types of nuts around to snack on.
  5. Pair a few squares of a 100% cacao bar (hyper dark chocolate) with your nuts. That’s my favorite snack. (OK but don’t eat ten a day and then call me out for making you “unhealthy.” Use your brain a little.)


You’ll Soon Be in Polyphenol Paradise

The great thing about eating such delicious and healthy foods is that eventually that’s all you’ll want. I don’t even remember the last time I ate, or wanted, fast food, fruit juices, chips, baked treats (donuts, muffins, cookies), candy, soda, pizza, pasta, or anything that the average person eats on a regular basis.

You can probably now see how the Standard American Diet lacks any focus on polyphenols. This exposes SAD (heh) diet users to lower energy levels, poor performance, and multiple chronic illnesses. No wonder people are chronically lacking energy.

Instead of junk food, the things I typically crave now are roasted and lightly salted almonds, red pepper hummus, hard cheeses, raw cacao, coffee, and Almond Coconut Detonators.

I do miss bread. Particularly toast. But that’s no problem, because I frequently make Covert Ops ZeroDarkThirty Bread – the perfect ketogenic bread.

Another win for the ketogenic diet.

Did I mention I have coffee and chocolate every day? Yummmm…now that’s a polyphenol paradise.

Polyphenols Summary

This ended up being a very long post, so thanks for sticking it out!

I suppose the short version would read… “Eat lots of colorful vegetables, herbs, nuts, and coffee.” But I’m quite happy with the long version.

Remember these key points about polyphenols for your next grocery trip:

  • Polyphenols are an essential component in long term health and vitality.
  • They can boost your energy levels, improve athletic performance, have anti-aging effects, and can help deter chronic illness, cancer, and glucose instability.
  • Found in vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, cacao, and other nutrient dense foods (40 delicious polyphenol-rich foods later in the post).

One last note. I sure would like to meet you. Shoot me an email at matt@covertbody.com or leave a comment. Let’s connect.

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