What are phytonutrients?
Plant foods contain thousands of natural chemicals. These are called phytonutrients or phytochemicals.”Phyto” refers to the Greek word for plant. These chemicals help protect plants from germs, fungi, bugs, and other threats. Fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients. Other plant-based foods also contain phytonutrients, such as whole grains, nuts, beans, and tea.
Phytonutrients aren’t essential for keeping you alive, unlike the vitamins and minerals that plant foods contain. But when you eat or drink phytonutrients, they may help prevent disease and keep your body working properly. 1
Phytonutrients are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. Phytonutrients may also enhance immunity and intercellular communication, repair DNA damage from exposure to toxins, detoxify carcinogens and alter estrogen metabolism. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) notes that consuming a phytonutrient-rich diet seems to be an “effective strategy” for reducing cancer and heart disease risks.
Many phytonutrients give plants their pigments, so a good way to tell if a fruit or vegetable is rich in phytonutrients can be by its color, according to Louis Premkumar, a professor of pharmacology at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and author of “Fascinating Facts about Phytonutrients in Spices and Healthy Food” (Xlibris, 2014). Look for deep-hued foods like berries, dark greens, melons and spices. These foods also are rich in flavor and aroma, which makes them more palatable. But some phytonutrient-rich foods have little color, like onions and garlic, and you don’t want to discount them. 2
Types of phytonutrients
Carotenoids are pigments in plants that are responsible for the bright-colored hues of vegetables and fruits. There are more than 600 carotenoids, and they must be consumed through foods and sources of fat. Carotenoids act as antioxidants, and some can be converted into vitamin A. They support immune system function, eye health, and reduce your risk of cancer.
Ellagic acid is a phytochemical known for reducing cancer risk and lowering cholesterol. Ellagic acid has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The highest levels of ellagic acid are present in raspberries.
Resveratrol is found predominantly in grapes — specifically, the grape skin — and wine. This compound supports cardiovascular and cognitive health. Resveratrol has also been associated with increased cerebral blood flow.
Flavonoids are one of the largest groups of phytonutrients. This compound is rich in antioxidant properties and anticancer activity.
These compounds are associated with reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Phytoestrogen mimics estrogen in the body, which may be beneficial for women in relieving discomfort from hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. However, some studies have shown phytoestrogens may disrupt hormone function. Be mindful of your intake of phytoestrogens and get to know how they may impact your body, as everyone is different.
Glucosinolates are compounds found predominantly in cruciferous vegetables. They are known for helping to regulate inflammation, metabolic function, and stress responses. Glucosinolates have also been associated with cancer prevention. Studies in rats and mice found that the compounds that form from broken down glucosinololates inactivate carcinogens and protect cells from DNA damage. However, this has not been proven in human studies. 3
Improves Eye Health
Human eyes are sensitive organs, they are exposed to a lot of pollution and other environmental factors. Staring at the screen for hours is also an aspect that severely affects eye health. Eye specialists recommend eating a diet full of phytonutrients to help steer clear of several eye-related diseases and complications like macular degeneration when you grow old. Eating a diet loaded with kale and broccoli will provide you with the necessary amounts of phytonutrients to maintain and boost your eye health. You can also keep age-related eye diseases like cataracts at bay once you start consuming diet enriched with the Phytonutrients.
Strong bones will help maintain your posture as you grow old, enable you to keep on exercising without risk of injury and of course, prevent debilitating diseases such as osteoporosis and arthritis. Milk and other dairy products such as cheese contain a lot of phytonutrients, vitamins, and calcium to support bone health. Despite that, you need to evaluate your diet and incorporate food sources naturally packed with Phytonutrients. These nutrients function to make your bones dense reducing the chances of issues like rickets.
Have you ever thought why health experts force you to incorporate tomatoes, kale, broccoli, spinach, and other leafy greens into your salad bowl? That is because these foods sources can provide high levels of phytonutrients that need to keep your cardiovascular health on track. It is evident that heart problems can occur at any age. Thereby, cardiologists often recommend making changes in your diet.
Improves Skin Condition
Your skin tells what you what you are feeding your body. A flawless skin indicates your body is safe from health-damaging factors. Achieving clear, radiant, and smooth skin is a dream of many, but a few people make it a reality. It solely depends on the food items you consume. Stuffing your body with processed foods, sugary drinks, and excess sugar cannot promote the condition of your skin. You need to opt for significant changes here. Beauty gurus have always welcomed the intake of various nutrients such as phytonutrients. You will be pleasantly surprised to witness clean and wrinkle-free skin once you begin consuming foods enriched with Phytonutrients.
Nutritionists believe that a strong immunity can alleviate factors like free radicals. Free radicals are nothing less than a threat to your overall body as the element contributes to oxidative stress. This oxidative stress on your organs, unfortunately, results in chronic diseases like cancer. A study concludes that an intake of Phytonutrients can decrease the symptoms of prostate cancer. However, further studies are underway to support the claim.
Strengthens Immune System
A healthy immune system destroys infectious bacteria, free radicals, and other factors that may affect your health. The question here is how can you enhance your immunity? You only need to make a few changes to your diet and incorporate Phytonutrients-dense food. An adequate level of the nutrient in your body will do rest of the work for you.
Reduces Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol levels are the primary cause of cardiovascular problems. You should balance good and bad cholesterol levels in your body to slide clear of the symptoms associated with stroke and heart disease. Plus, an excess of cholesterol in your blood vessels is also a factor that contributes to heart problems. You can obtain phytonutrients from food sources like apples, apricots, and leafy greens to maintain your cholesterol levels.
Alleviates Joint Inflammation
Joint inflammation brings a lot of discomforts. The condition affects senior people and young adults alike. Health experts emphasize the consumption of proteins, minerals, and phytonutrients to combat joint inflammation. However, a constant inflammation could be a symptom of some underlying health problem. You should consult with your doctor to get the right treatment.
Indigestion is a common health issue and can lead to numerous intestinal and metabolic complications if you are not careful. Plus, eating nutrients such as phytonutrients from raw vegetables can treat indigestion in no time.
High Blood Pressure
You should maintain your blood pressure levels via through a phytonutrient-rich diet. Plus, consult with your healthcare provider on a daily basis to keep your health on track.
An energetic body improves the quality of your life. You should never overlook the fact and focus on consuming essential nutrients including Phytonutrients that your body needs. 4