What are Phytonutrients?
“Phyto” is the Greek word for “plant”. Phytonutrients are natural chemicals which are present in plant-based foods. You can find phytonutrients in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. Phytonutrients promote good health and provide loads of health benefits. Studies show that there are over 25,000 phytonutrients in various plants, however, we will discuss six popular ones.
Some Common Phytonutrients
Carotenoids such as lycopene, beta-carotene, and lutein are commonly found in certain plant foods. They reduce the risk of certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases. Lutein, in particular, prevents prostate, breast, uterine, and lung cancers. It also improves eye health.
Ellagic acid is mostly found in cranberries, pecans, blackberries, raspberries, pomegranates, strawberries, grapes, and walnuts. It prevents certain cancers, prostate and breast cancers in particular.
Flavonoids are phenolic compounds found in legumes, berries, grapes, tea, olive oil, walnuts, cocoa, spices, peanuts, fruits, onions, and green vegetables. Flavonoids inhibit free radicals, hence prevents cancer.
These compounds reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. Phytoestrogen, like estrogen, relieves discomfort menopausal symbols and hot flashes. You might need to be mindful of your consumption of phytoestrogens, as they may disrupt your hormone functions. You may find phytoestrogens in legumes, oranges, carrots, coffee, soy, and broccoli.
You can find glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables. Glucosinolates prevent cancer, regulate metabolic function, inflammation, and stress responses. You can obtain glucosinolates from Brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, mustard, and some other foods.
Plants naturally make resveratrol when they`re under the attack of harmful bacteria. You can find resveratrol in blueberries, strawberries, mulberries, peanuts, grapes, purple grass, and red wine. It’s a neuroprotective compound that improves brain health. It also benefits the heart as a result of its anti-oxidant properties which preserve cells in the arteries and helps them function better.
Classes of Phytonutrients
There are three main classes of phytonutrients. Let’s discuss them.
Phytochemicals are compounds derived from plants, and they are useful for protection against diseases. They are commonly found in vegetables, fruits, cereals, beans, wine, and tea.
Medicinal plants prevent and treat various diseases. They are also beneficial in quite a number of other ways.
Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices have lots of benefits such as their therapeutic and antiobesity properties.
Food Sources of Phytonutrients
Here is a list of common foods that contain phytonutrients.
- sweet potato
- brussels sprouts
- sesame seeds
- collard greens
- pink grapefruit
- green tea
- red wine
Medicinal Plants That Contain Phytonutrients
Apart from food sources, phytonutrients can also be found in medicinal plants. Here is a list of some of them.
- milk thistle
- aloe vera
- St. John’s Wort
- ginkgo biloba
- witch hazel
Some Phytonutrient-Rich Foods
Even though there are a number of foods that contain phytonutrients, some foods contain them in high amounts, and these foods are easily accessible. Let’s take a look.
This dark, leafy green is a nutrient-dense vegetable used in salads, smoothies, and loads of dishes. Kale has over 50 phytonutrients, including quercetin and kaempferol. Quercetin is an antioxidant flavonoid which protects the body against free radicals and prevents various health conditions such as cancer, metabolic disorders, and cardiovascular diseases. Kaempferol, on the other hand, is an antioxidant that protects the body against free radicals, hence prevents the growth of cancer cells. It also protects other cells. Kale is considered a superfood.
Blueberries are bursting with vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients such as resveratrol and anthocyanins. Blueberries have anticancer, anti-aging, anti-allergenic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-frailty properties.
Anthocyanins, present in blueberries, are a group of flavonoids with anticarcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties.
These creamy pitted fruits are capable of preventing cardiovascular diseases. They are rich in carotenoids, which are a group of phytonutrients that possess antiaging antioxidants. Avocados balance blood sugar levels, prevent cancer and improve immune health.
Spinach is particularly beneficial for muscle strength. It contains vitamins C and K, folate, iron, nitrate, and phytonutrients such as alpha lipoic acid and polyphenols. Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant that prevents cell damage and restores vitamin levels.
11 Health Benefits of Phytonutrients
Improves Eye Health
Regular consumption of diets packed with phytonutrients keeps eye diseases at bay. Kale and broccoli particularly improve eye health and prevent macular degeneration, cataracts, and other age-related eye diseases. To improve eye health, enrich your body with meals that contain phytonutrients.
The foods you eat have a lot to do with the appearance of your skin. Beauty experts know the role of phytonutrients in skin health. For radiant and smooth skin, consume foods rich in phytonutrients regularly.
Strengthens Immune System
Foods that are bursting with phytonutrients enhance your immunity, thereby ward off certain health conditions. To reduce your vulnerability to illnesses, consume phytonutrient-dense foods regularly.
People who have strong bones maintain good postures as they age. To keep your bones healthy, consume dairy products and other foods that contain phytonutrients regularly. These nutrients will reduce your risk of arthritis, osteoporosis, rickets and other bone issues.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
People who consume diets packed with phytonutrients maintain healthy hearts. You may incorporate kale, spinach, broccoli, and even more leafy greens in your salads, in addition to other phytonutrient-rich foods to maintain a healthy heart.
Reduces Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol levels are linked to stroke and heart problems. Incorporating phytonutrient-rich foods in your diets helps you maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Combats Joint Inflammation
Joint inflammation is more prevalent in elderly people. Regular consumption of minerals, proteins, and phytonutrients alleviate joint inflammation. However, note that persistent joint inflammation may require the attention of health experts, beyond consuming phytonutrients.
Indigestion can be such a discomfort. It may result in intestinal and metabolic problems if you don’t take care of it. Phytonutrients from raw vegetables deal with indigestion.
Regulates Blood Pressure
Phytonutrient-packed diets help you maintain healthy blood pressure levels, thereby preventing the many health complications that come with unhealthy blood pressure levels.
Boosts Energy Levels
Foods rich in phytonutrients boost energy levels and help heighten your performance levels to attend to activities.
Prevents Prostate Cancer
Free radicals contribute to oxidative stress and give room to health conditions. Phytonutrients inhibit free radicals, hence reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Side Effects of Phytonutrients
As beneficial as phytonutrients are, there are potential risks attached to consuming them, however, they are manageable. Let`s discuss them.
Persons with certain health conditions may find it harmful consuming phytonutrients as supplements, due to possible drug interference. You are advised to first speak with your doctor.
Some people adjust to plant-based foods slowly; this is why everyone is advised to consume them slowly at the initial stage. High-fiber plants, in particular, can be challenging for some persons to adjust to.
Now That You Know…
Phytonutrients are quite beneficial to health, as you have seen. Fortunately, there are loads of options to choose from to consume phytonutrients. It is important that you study your body system to see the phytonutrient-rich foods that suit you. If you notice any negative reactions, you might want to discontinue, and/or speak with a doctor.