Phenolic Acids: Benefits and Dietary Sources

There are more than 8000 polyphenolic compounds found in various plant species; among them, phenolic acids, flavonoids and lignans are the most important.

Scientific research reveals that polyphenol-rich diet reduces the risk of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Polyphenols are so called life-prolongers since they prevent certain diseases that often lead to fatal outcomes.

Phenolic acids are a group of phytochemicals with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The list of phenolic acids is quite long, and some of them were thoroughly studied in connection with human health.

Acetylsalicylic Acid

Aspirin, a synthetic form of acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), is widely used to prevent and treat heart attacks. This compound has two important properties – it prevents the formation of blood clots and has anti-inflammatory qualities.

Unfortunately, like any other drug, aspirin has notable side effects. It irritates the stomach and can cause complications like gastritis, peptic ulcer, and gastric bleeding.

However, salicylic acid is also found in natural plant products. According to recent studies, lack of these products in our diet might increase the risk of hearth and blood diseases. Salicylic acid also gives fruits and veggies many of their beneficial properties.

In vegetables, the salicylate content ranges from 0 to 6 mg. It is higher in fruits and berries, 2.1 to 7.8 mg. Dries fruits like apricots, dates, and raisins are high in salicylic acid, as well as cucumbers, tomatoes, and black tea. Spices like curry powder, thyme, and paprika have the highest content, though we commonly use them in small amounts.

Some researchers find that the increased incidence of cardiovascular diseases is caused by the lack of salicylates in our food. Grains, meat, fish, and dairy products, which are very poor in salicylates, usually make the most of our diet. Taking only 25-30 mg of salicylic acid daily would significantly reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks, not to mention the strong antioxidant properties that slow down the aging process.

Fresh fruits and vegetables will enrich your diet with beneficial phenolic acids. Don’t forget to add curry powder, turmeric, thyme, and rosemary to your dishes. Ginger powder is also great to add in drinks like tea, coffee, and juices.

Ellagic Acid

Ellagic acid is great for cancer prevention. Recent studies have shown that ellagic acid is one of the most effective anti-cancer agents. It works similar to the drugs used in chemotherapy, but, unlike synthetic pharmaceuticals, natural plant compounds aren’t toxic.

Precancerous cells can appear in the body at any age; they transform into real cancer cells rather slowly. Over time, carcinogens cause multiple gene mutations, which make the malignant cells more viable. At a certain point, they form something like micro-tumors, which are still very difficult to diagnose.

This process can take from one to fifty years, and during this time precancerous cells are very sensitive to external influences. At different stages of cancer development, anti-cancer agents from food can provide protection to our body.

Berries, fruits, and nuts are rich in ellagic acid; its highest content is found in raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries.

Antioxidant properties

Even vitamins A, E, and C cannot compete with antioxidant properties of phenolic acids. Oriental spices have the highest antioxidant activity index (AAI), berries and fruits follow them right after.

Among berries, blueberry has the strongest antioxidant properties. In addition, blueberries help to increase our visual acuity and reduce blood sugar. Phenolic compounds found in blueberries reduce the risk of blood clots, heart attack, and stroke.

Foods rich in phenolic acids play a significant role in regulating vital functions of our body. It is highly recommended to include them in our diet on a daily basis.

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