There is currently much interest in phytochemicals as bioactive compounds of food. The roles of fruit, vegetables and red wine in disease prevention have been attributed, in part, to the antioxidant properties of their constituent polyphenols (vitamins E and C, and the carotenoids). Recent studies have shown that many dietary polyphenolic constituents derived from plants are more effective antioxidants in vitro than vitamins E or C, and thus might contribute significantly to the protective effects in vivo. Polyphenols are abundant micronutrients in our diet, and evidence for their role in the prevention of degenerative diseases is emerging. Dietary polyphenols show a great diversity of structures, ranging from rather simple molecules (monomers and oligomers) to polymers. Higher-molecular-weight structures (with molecular weights of $500) are usually designated as tannins, which refers to their ability to interact with proteins. Among them, condensed tannins (proanthocyanidins) are particularly important because of their wide distribution in plants and their contributions to major food qualities. This paper focuses on polyphenols; we illustrate their sources from food, properties and their beneficial uses.
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