Phytonutrients are found in plants and are best when eaten as the “whole plant” (skin included), especially when they are grown organically.

beautiful vegetables are part of an organic diet

Fruits and vegetables contain thousands of natural chemicals called phytonutrients or phytochemicals. The prefix, “Phyto” refers to the Greek word for plant. These chemicals help protect plants from germs, fungi, bugs, and other threats. When humans eat the plants these chemicals protect us too.

Phytonutrients aren’t essential for keeping you alive, like vitamins and minerals are, but when you eat or drink phytonutrients, they may help prevent disease and keep your body working properly.

We can break these phytonutrients into some sub categories for further discussion. The first 6 that come to mind are Carotenoids, Ellagic Acid, Flavinoids, Resveritrol, Glucosinolates, and Phytoestrogens.

Assorted berries

There are more than 600 carotenoids  in fruits and vegetables which provide yellow, orange, and red colors. These phytonutrients act as antioxidants in your body, while they tackle harmful free radicals that damage tissues. Once inside your body Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin convert to vitamin A. This vitamin helps keep your immune system working properly, and it’s needed for eye health.

Yellow and orange foods like pumpkins and carrots are good sources of alpha- and beta-carotene.

Ellagic acid is found in a number of berries and other plant foods, especially: Strawberries, Raspberries, and Pomegranates. Ellagic acid may help protect against cancer in several different ways. For example, it may slow the growth of cancer cells, and help your liver neutralize cancer-causing chemicals in your system.

But studies of this acid have mainly been done in the laboratory, so it’s benefits for human health are unknown.

flavinoid facts

A large number of phytonutrients fall into the flavonoid category. They are found in a variety of plant foods like green tea, citrus fruits, apples, kale, berries, and onions. Not only do flavinoids contain antioxidants and reduce inflammation, but they can reduce the risk of asthma attacks in those who suffer from asthma.

phytonutrients in red wine

Resveratrol is found in Grapes, Purple grape juice, and Red wine. It acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

Glucosinolates are found in cruciferous vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Kohlrabi, Kale, and Broccoli. They give these vegetables their sharp odor and flavor.

The glucosinolates turn into other chemicals during the cooking process and while you digest these foods. These chemicals may help hold in check the development and growth of cancer cells.

Because of their structure, Phytoestrogens can exert estrogen-like effects. They can also block the effects of your natural supply of estrogen. Soy foods contain isoflavones, a type of phytoestrogen.

Some evidence suggests that soy foods may be linked to lower risk of endometrial cancer, and lower risk of bone loss in women who have osteoporosis.


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