Following a plant-based diet can provide you with many nutrients, one of which is phytonutrients. Plant foods contain myriad naturally occurring chemicals, called phytonutrients, or phytochemicals. “Phyto” refers to the Greek word for the plant. These chemicals help in protecting the plants from harmful germs, fungus, bugs etc. which are a threat to their health.
However, phytonutrients are healthy for humans as well. These chemicals are rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help support a healthy human body. This means they deal with harmful free radicals that damage tissues throughout our bodies. Thousands of phytonutrients are found in plants and related foods.
Some of the most common phytonutrients in your diet are: carotenoids, ellagic acid, resveratrol, flavonoids, phytoestrogens, and glucosinolates. These phytonutrients can be found in foods such as: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, tea, nuts, beans and spices.
Benefits of phytonutrients:
- Glucosinolates are known to help prevent cancer. This phytonutrient is mainly present in cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy and Brussels sprouts.
- They help eliminate toxins in the body.
- Carotenoids are a type of phytonutrient that is beneficial for eye health and our body’s immunity. These phytochemicals are also known to provide the bright yellow, orange and red colors in fruits and vegetables. Studies show that common carotenoids, known as lutein and zeaxanthin, are found in the retina and can reduce your risk of developing macular degeneration by up to 43 percent.
- Types of carotenoids such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin can be converted into vitamin A by our bodies. Yellow and orange foods like pumpkin and carrots are good sources of alpha- and beta-carotene.
- On the other hand, consumption of flavonoids can protect the human body from cancer and heart disease.
- These phytonutrients contribute to healthy cell communication and can trigger detoxification, reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of tumors spreading throughout the body.
- Add fruits like strawberries, raspberries and pomegranates to your diet to add ellagic acid-rich nutrition to your diet. Lycopene-rich foods such as tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit are also a good way to incorporate phytochemicals into your diet.
How are you going to incorporate phytochemicals into your diet?