Phenolic acids occur naturally in plants and are their main polyphenols. In the plants, they act as signaling molecules and agents of defense. Since the acids are compounds of phenols, they are more commonly referred to as phenolic compounds. Possibly the most well known of these compounds are flavonoids. Lesser known phenolic acids include hydroxycinnamic acids and hydroxybenzoic acid.
Hydroxycinnamic and Hydroxybenzoic Acids
Hydroxycinnamic acid is a class of phenolic acids that are derivatives of cinnamic acid. These compounds can actually be found in many foods and are more common than hydroxybenzoic acids. The ones which can be found in foods include caffeic acid, cichoric acid, cinnamic acid, chlorogenic acid, caftaric acid, coutaric acid, fertaric acid, diferulic acid, coumaric acid, coumarin, ferulic acid and sinapinic acid.
Foods where you can find some of these compounds include citrus fruits, aloe, hawthorn, grapes, pears, artichokes, thyme, basil, apples, oregano, strawberries, coffee, pineapples, sunflowers, echinacea, blueberries, win, maize, rice, oats, mushrooms and peanuts. These phenolic acids can also be found in non-food items. For instance, 4-Hydroxybenzoic acid is regularly found as a preservative is cosmetics and beauty products as parebens.
Benefits of Polyphenols & Phenolic Acids
Since polyphenols as as agents of defense for plants, their properties are also thought to be beneficial when consumed by humans. These compounds can offer the same antioxidant properties to humans. In fact, the compounds works to prevent free radical damage in the body by protecting the cells in the body. Polyphenols have four different groups or types, and phenolic acids are one of the four types.
Phenolic acids are primarily found in the seeds and skins of fruits, such as grapes. And for vegetables, the highest concentrations of phenolic acids are in the leaves. Once ingested, the phenolic acids gets absorbed when they reach your intestinal tract. This is something that is easily done by your body. Eating a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and whole grains ensures that you are consuming an abundant amount of phenolic acids in your diet.
Flavonoids, which are another of the four types of polyphenols, are also usually present where there are phenolic acids. As a result, there is some debate as to whether or not phenolic acids really are beneficial to your health or if the benefit actually derives from the flavonoids.
If someone in interested in increasing the amount of phenolic acids ingested daily, then that be done by eating a balanced diet of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Or, dietary supplement might be available. For instance, grape seed extract can be taken daily to get the phenolic acids that would normally come from eating grapes.