Eat Your Phytonutrients!

 

You’ve heard of macronutrients and micronutrients, but what about phytonutrients?  Well “phyto” means plant, so phytonutrients are nutrients found in plants!  And these nutrients are powerful.  In plants, these nutrients are designed to protect plants from germs, fungi, and bugs.  In humans, these nutrients help prevent disease!

Phytonutrients can be found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and tea.  There are 10 that have been well studied by scientists and we’ll take a look at each of them below:

 

Carotenoids

This class of phytonutrients can be found in yellow, orange, and red fruits and vegetables (think carrots!).  Carotenoids are antioxidants and fight free radicals in the body.  Some can be converted to Vitamin A to help with your immune system and vision.

Lycopene

This phytonutrients is found in red and pink plants like tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruit.  This powerful nutrient has been linked to lower rates of prostate cancer.

Lutein

This phytonutrient can be found in dark greens like spinach, kale, and collards.  It is known for helping with eye problems such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

Ellagic Acid

Ellagic Acid can be found in berries such as strawberries, raspberries, and pomegranates.  It has been shown to slow cancer cell growth – wow!  

Catechins

Catechins are found in green tea.  They are well known for the prevention of certain cancers.

Hesperidin

This phytonutrient can be found in citrus fruits and helps to reduce inflammation in the body – prevent a lot of our age-related diseases.

Flavonols

Flavonols have been found in apples, berries, kale, and onions.  This one is super powerful!  It has been shown to reduce risk of asthma, some cancer, and coronary heart disease.

Resveratrol

This is the famous nutrient found in grapes and red wine… it is well known for it’s anti-inflammatory properties.  Current research is trying to prove it’s ability to reduce heart disease and cancer.

Glucosinolates

This phytonutrient are found in cruciferous vegetables (brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, broccoli).  To utilize this nutrient, the cruciferous vegetables must be cooked.  They have the potential to prevent the growth of cancer.

Phytoestrogens

This phytonutrient can be found in soy foods.  Phytoestrogens act like estrogens in the body – meaning they prevent the body from making excess estrogen.  This has been shown to lower risk of endometrial cancer and bone loss.

 

So, these plant-based nutrients have powerful effects in our body – but how can we be sure to get them?  Simply fill your plates with as many colors as you can to ensure a wide variety of phytonutrients.

 

Resources:

http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/phytonutrients-faq#2