Get the Most from Your Fruits and Veggies: Polyphenol Digestion

Farmers Market 300x169

Don’t miss out on the protective compounds fruits and vegetables offer.


With warmer weather approaching, thoughts turn to planting gardens and visiting farmers’ markets in order to get those healthy fruits and vegetables. These foods not only taste good, they are nutritious as well.

Vegetables and fruits are good sources of fiber, natural sugars, vitamins, minerals and many other compounds. We now know that the best way to derive the nutrition of these foods is by ingesting them as a whole food.

Many of the nutritive compounds from fruits and veggies have been isolated and made available for consumption, but often other factors from these foods are needed to reap the full benefit.

Polyphenols are factors which provide protection from oxidative stress, carcinogens, and mutagens. Polyphenols comprise a large class of complex structures found in plants.

The problem is that the majority of polyphenols are in a form that is inactive or otherwise not bio-available.  Most polyphenols are made active by enzymes produced by bacteria in the colon.

Another problem is that these same bacteria may also produce substances that degrade the polyphenol before it can be absorbed. The fact that these actions occur in the colon is also a concern since absorption is not optimal within the colon.

It is thought that certain enzymes produced by good fungi and bacteria may clip the sugar group that are attached to and keep polyphenols from being absorbed. These same enzymes, when taken with foods high in polyphenols, can start working on the inactive compounds while still in the stomach and small intestine.

By releasing the sugar group that held the polyphenol in check, the compound is activated much earlier in the digestive tract.

Absorption in the small intestine can then occur rather than being lost through elimination. It also prevents the polyphenol from being degraded by the colonic bacteria.