An OK addiction…..farmer’s market polyphenols!

An OK addiction…..farmer’s market polyphenols!

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

By Mary Lou Block RDN LMNT

     Have you frequented a farmer’s market this summer?   It’s an addiction for me.  I love the social, artistic, and intellectual stimulation of it all, but of all the things I love, real food is at the top of the list. 

     I just can’t help myself when it comes to the rainbow of color and nutrient density of “fresh locally grown fare.”  From bell peppers to sprouts, it’s addictive!  

    Think polyphenols as you peruse the market tables of amber, crimson, magenta, lavender and green.  They are big determiners of the color, flavor and health-promoting properties of the vegetables in front of you.

     Actually, polyphenols are among several classes of naturally occurring compounds found in plants.  They are known as secondary metabolites, that is, small organic molecules useful to protect the plant from ultraviolet radiation or pathogens.

     Increasingly known for their health benefits, they include compounds that prevent chronic and age-related illnesses.

Classes of Polyphenols found at Farmer’s Market

  1.  Phenolic acids include curcumin from turmeric, but also are rich in skins and leaves of farmer’s market vegetables.
  2. Flavonoids are present in leafy vegetables, onions, scallions, kale, broccoli, parsley, thyme, celery, hot peppers, and garlic.
  3. Lignans flood curly kale, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.
  4. Coumarins are present in the fruit, roots, stems and leaves of a variety of vegetables.
  5. Stilbenes are found in berries.

Why should you care about polyphenols?

  1. They show strong antimicrobial activity due to their high antioxidant content.

2)   They positively affect your gut microbiotia, making it easier for those microbes to stick to your gut wall.

3)  They have anti-diabetic activity, specifically inhibiting 2 enzymes responsible for the conversion of dietary carbohydrates to glucose.

4)  They possess anti-oxidant activity, averting cell damage.

5)  They exert protective effects against strokes, neurologic disorders and dementia.

A motivator for “local” polyphenols!

Many factors affect polyphenol content such as degree of ripeness at the time of harvest, environmental factors, processing, and storage.  All influences minimized, or more readily known by, a local purchase!  A.K.A. Farmer’s Market!

Maximizing Your Local Polyphenol Purchase

To maximize the polyphenol content of your local purchase, consider these polyphenol facts.

1)      Polyphenols are present in greatest quantity in the outer layers of plants. 

Tip:  Eat your vegetable purchase with skins attached, and don’t throw away the tops of turnips, carrots, radishes.  These leaves make a delicious side-dish sautéed with crushed garlic and olive oil.

2)   In general, polyphenol content decreases with ripeness, and    cold storage minimizes polyphenol loss. 

Tip: Select appropriately ripe vegetables and refrigerate them until use.

3)  Cooking can reduce polyphenol content by as much as 65%.

Tip:  Eat these great selections raw or enjoy them sautéed or minimally cooked.

Use local polyphenols to prepare your immune system for the challenges of fall and winter ahead.  Before summer officially comes to an end, take in a market!  It’s a great investment in your health!

See you there!

Sauteed Garlic and Carrot Greens

Farmer’s Market Roasted Vegetable Salad

Sources for this blog:

Plant polyphenols

2 Phenolic acids: Natural versatile molecules with promising therapeutic applications

Polyphenols and the Human Brain

Plant Polyphenols Stimulate Adhesion to Intestinal Mucosa and Induce Proteome Changes in the Probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM