Phytonutrients, also known as antioxidants, are the natural chemical compounds that make up plants and can be found in vegetables, fruit, grains, legumes, whole grains, and spices. They are also referred to as phytochemicals and give fruits, vegetables, and plants their smell or color! Some benefits include fighting off oxidative stress (prevents free radicals (toxins) from damaging DNA), boosts immunity, prevents some cancers, and helps reduce diseases such as heart disease. They have anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial for health and has different forms such as Polyphenols and Terpenoids, but are also broken down into other forms, such as:
Ever wondered how yellow, orange, and red fruits and vegetables get their colors? There are over 600 types of carotenoids such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and they are converted into Vitamin A and support immune function and eye health (you can read more about Vitamin A here). You can find carotenoids in foods such as carrots, tomatoes, yams, spinach, and pumpkins.
This phytochemical has anti-inflammatory properties and is known for reducing the risk of certain cancers. It can be found in fruit such as strawberries and blackberries, as well as in nuts like walnuts.
This antioxidant can be found in grape skin and can help reduce the risk of heart disease. It can also be found in peanuts and dark chocolate.
Flavonoids, the largest group of phytonutrients, can be also found as flavones, anthocyanins, flavanones, isoflavones, and flavonols. This phytonutrient is known to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, asthma, and certain types of cancer. You can find this in foods such as onions, ginger, coffee, tea, and legumes.
Mimicking the hormone estrogen, Phytoestrogens are beneficial for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, and can reduce the risk of some cancers, heart disease, and osteoporosis. You can find phytoestrogens in soy foods, broccoli, carrots, and coffee.
Cruciferous vegetables contain the phytonutrient glucosinolates, which is known for reducing inflammation and regulating stress responses in the body. In the cooking process and digestion of these vegetables, the glucosinolates turn into other chemicals.
An easy way to ensure that you are consuming phytonutrients in your diet is by eating a colorful plant food that includes a variation of vegetables to experience the disease-fighting benefits!