Phytonutrients are natural compounds found in plant foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grain products and legumes. These plant compounds have beneficial effects working with other essential nutrients to promote good health.
Plants contain thousands of natural compounds that science has shown benefit human health and shield us against chronic diseases ranging from heart disease and stroke to diabetes, dementia and cancer. There are still thousands of yet unidentified chemical compounds in plants and vegetables we consume that likely work in synergy with existing phytonutrients that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits to promote healthy metabolism and cellular homeostasis.
Many of us are well aware of macronutrients, such as carbohydrates, protein and fat, as well as micronutrients, such as the vitamins and minerals that are listed on FDA-regulated food labels. But too few of us are familiar with phytonutrients — plant-based micronutrients that offer many health benefits and may help ward off chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
“Phyto” means plant
• Phytonutient literally means plant nutrient.
• There are hundreds of phytonutrients that are often referred to as phytochemicals also.
• Common phytonutrients include carotenoids such as lutein, flavonoids, coumarins, indoles, isoflavones, lignans, organosulfures and plant sterols.
• Many phytonutrients have antioxidant properties that help prevent damage to cells throughout the body.
• A number of phytonutrients have been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
• Experts believe that eating plenty of phytonutrient-rich foods promotes healthy aging.
Other biological roles
• Phytonutrients may have other bioactive functions for promoting health.
• Some may have positive effects on the immune system and hormones.
• Phytonutrients may also act as antibacterial or antiviral agents.
Phytonutrient rich foods
• Red, orange and yellow vegetables and fruit (such as tomatoes, carrots, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, peaches, mangos, melons, citrus fruits, and berries)
• Dark green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, kale, bok choy, broccoli, Swiss chard, and romaine lettuce)
• Garlic, onions, chives and leeks
• Whole grain products (such as brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, barley, wheat berries, and whole wheat whole grain breads and whole grain cereals)
• Nuts and seeds (such as walnuts, almonds, sunflower, sesame and flax seeds)
• Legumes (such as dried beans, peas, lentils, soy beans and soy products)
• Tea and coffee (such as green tea, black tea and other herbal teas)
Enjoy the rainbow
• Phytonutrients are responsible for the vibrant colours found in vegetables and fruit.
• For example the phytonutrient lycopene helps give tomatoes and watermelon their red color.
• By enjoying a rainbow of vegetables and fruit everyday, you can make the most of many of the phytonutrients nature has to offer.
The following 10 natural substances have been demonstrated to be the most effective
1. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG): A green tea extract
2. Curcumin: The primary polyphenol in turmeric root
3. Resveratrol: A phytochemical found in grapes, peanuts, Japanese knotweed
4. Lycopene: A red carotenoid found in watermelon, pink grapefruit, and tomatoes
5. Pomegranate extracts
6. Luteolin: A flavonoid found in peppers and various green vegetables
7. Genistein: A phytochemical found in soy, red clover, and coffee
8. Piperine: A phytochemicals found in black pepper
9. β-carotene: An orange carotenoid found in various vegetables
10. Sulforaphane: A sulfurous phytochemical found in Cruciferous vegetables
“Phytonutrients , also a milestone in the improvement of cancer treatment because the synthetic anticancer drugs that are currently used are often highly toxic for healthy organs and weakens the patient's immune system."