How to Add Phenolic Acids in Your Diet

Berries are rich in phenolic acids that are good for your health.
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A phenolic acid is a type of phytochemical called a polyphenol. Other types of polyphenols include flavonoids and stilbenes. Phenolic acids are found in a variety of plant-based foods; the seeds and skins of fruits and the leaves of vegetables contain the highest concentrations.

Benefits of Phenolic Acid

Phenolic acids are readily absorbed through the walls of your intestinal tract, and they may be beneficial to your health because they work as antioxidants that prevent cellular damage due to free-radical oxidation reactions. They may also promote anti-inflammatory conditions in your body when you eat them regularly.

Where to Find Them

Phenolic acids are abundant in a balanced diet. You should get plenty of them as long as you consume adequate amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

There are many different phenolic acids found in nature, and they can be divided into two categories: benzoic acid derivatives, such as gallic acid; and cinnamic acid derivatives, including caffeic acid and ferulic acid. The cinnamic acids are more common than the benzoic acids.

Types of Phenolic Compounds
Benzoic Acid Derivatives Cinnamic Acid Derivatives
Tea Coffee
Grape seeds Blueberries
  Kiwis
  Plums
  Cherries
  Apples
  Red wine
  Cereal grains: corn, whole wheat, oats, rice
   

Gallic acid is found in tea and grape seeds. Coffee contains caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid. Blueberries, kiwis, plums, cherries, and apples contain large amounts of caffeic acid. Red wine and citrus fruits contain cinnamic acid. Ferulic acid is found in the outer coverings of cereal grains. Maize has the most ferulic acid of any grain, but whole-grain wheat, rice, and oat flours are good sources of ferulic acid as well.

Foods rich in phenolic acids may be beneficial for your health, but it's difficult to understand how much of that benefit is actually due to the phenolic acids or to the nutrients, fiber, and other phytochemicals also found in those foods. Here are a few examples: flavonoids (another category of polyphenol) are often found in the same foods as the phenolic acids, and most fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients and fiber.

Drinking coffee has been associated with a decreased risk of certain cancers and other chronic diseases. It contains caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid, but it also contains caffeine and other potentially beneficial compounds. Red wine has phenolic acids, but it also has resveratrol, which is another type of polyphenol that has potential health benefits.

Supplements

Phenolic acids may be available commercially in the form of dietary supplements, such as grape seed extract or green tea extract, which contain gallic acid. These supplements are usually marketed as antioxidants, but current research evidence suggests that eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is more beneficial than taking any antioxidant supplements.

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