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One of the lesser-known benefits of consuming a diet high in polyphenols is its beneficial impact on your gut bacteria.

Polyphenols are natural compounds found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, coffee, tea, and wine. They provide amazing health benefits as they proceed through the digestive tract. The majority of polyphenol compounds stay present all the way down to the colon where they are then broken down by your gut bacteria into metabolites.

Polyphenol-rich foods provide nutritional assistance that helps protect the health and welfare of your gut microbiome. They should be included in your diet along with such heavy hitters as probiotics and prebiotics.

Polyphenols Increase Good Bacteria

Your body contains approximately 10 trillion human cells, but over 100 trillion “good” bacteria. They outnumber you 10:1, so you need to protect and support them with your food choices. They can be negatively affected by antibiotics, stress, and poor food choices (fast food, processed food). Polyphenols provide the same type of benefits as prebiotics, meaning that they increase the amount of healthy bacteria in the gut.

I am a 365 day/year iced tea drinker, and wanted to see if drinking black tea would provide a more beneficial effect on gut bacteria than green tea because it is fermented, whereas green tea is not. Tea is one of the most researched of all the high-polyphenol foods, with many studies showing a positive link between the prebiotic effects of tea leaves and their polyphenol composition.

What is exciting is that not only do polyphenols increase the number of beneficial bacteria, they also inhibit the growth of potentially pathogenic bacteria. Catechin, a polyphenol found in tea, chocolate, apples, and blackberries, has been shown to significantly inhibit the proliferation of pathogens such as Clostridium histolyticum, Staphylococcus, and Salmonella.

Studies also show that tea consumption helps repress the growth of Clostridium perfringens, Clostridium difficile, and Bacteroides spp.

Include Polyphenol-Rich Foods for Balanced Gut Flora

Eating polyphenol-rich foods on a regular basis, along with probiotics, prebiotics, and resistant starch will balance your microbiome and help you achieve good gut health! Below is a list of some of the most polyphenol-rich foods, ranked from highest in polyphenols to lowest (per serving).

Top Polyphenol-Rich Foods:

  • Black elderberry
  • Blueberry
  • Coffee
  • Sweet cherry
  • Strawberry
  • Blackberry
  • Plum
  • Raspberry
  • Flaxseed meal
  • Dark chocolate
  • Chestnut
  • Black tea
  • Green tea
  • Apple
  • Hazelnut
  • Red wine
  • Black grapes

 

Written by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

 

Reviewed by:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

 

Sources:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0955286313000946

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4772042/

https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/98/6/1631S/4577455

 

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