Published on: 12-May-2021
Powerful nutrients to support your overall health and longevity
Phytonutrients are nutrients found in plant foods. Phyto means “plant”, and nutrient refers to “a substance which provides nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of life.” Plant foods include vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Plant foods contain hundreds of phytonutrients, also referred to as phytochemicals. Researchers estimate there are almost 4000 phytonutrients, all found in a variety of different plant foods, with an array of positive health benefits. Phytonutrients are antioxidants, protecting our cells from free radical damage. They are anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. They help prevent aging, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, neurological decline, and heart disease.
You are likely more familiar with phytonutrients than you realize. Phytonutrients are compounds in plants such as carotenoids, flavonoids, isothiocyanates, and resveratrol. Carotenoids include beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene, found in brightly colored red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables. They have antioxidant properties, support a healthy immune system, and protect our vision. Eat your carotenoids with a little bit of fat, just 3-5 grams, which will aid in absorption of these powerful nutrients (i.e., carrots & hummus). Flavonoids are compounds like anthocyanidins, flavonols, and isoflavones. They are found in tea, red grapes, kale, onions, citrus fruits, and soy. Flavonoids protect against inflammation, diabetes, thrombosis, cancer, and neurodegeneration.
Isothiocyanates are derived from glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing compounds in cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, turnips, cabbage, cauliflower, and bok choy. Isothiocyanates regulate the activity of enzymes involved in the metabolism and elimination of toxins from the body. They exhibit anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-cancer effects. Sulforaphane is a glucosinolate precursor found in broccoli and is highly concentrated in broccoli sprouts. Adding broccoli sprouts to a grain bowl or salad will pack an extra nutrient punch. You can even grow them at home in as little as 3 days!
Resveratrol is a phytonutrient found in grapes, peanuts, apples, raspberries, blueberries, plums, and red wine. Resveratrol has many beneficial properties, in addition to being an antioxidant, it is cardioprotective, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer. While there is evidence drinking red wine in moderation may have protective health effects, getting your resveratrol through berries and grapes is still the healthier option. One cup of red grapes can have up to 1.25 milligrams of resveratrol, while a 5-ounce glass of wine usually has between 0.2 – 0.5 milligrams.
While many of us may not think of fiber as a phytonutrient, it is a powerful component of our daily diet. Fiber lowers cholesterol, regulates blood sugar, supports a healthy gut, and reduces our risk of heart disease and diabetes. Foods rich in fiber keep us fuller longer, supporting a healthy weight. Fun fact, you can only get fiber from plant foods. Beans, whole grains like quinoa and barley, fruits such as pears and raspberries, and vegetables like artichokes and potatoes, are filled with fiber.
All plant foods contain an array of phytonutrients. For instance, blueberries contain polyphenols, flavonoids, phenolic acid, pyruvic acid, chlorogenic acid, fiber, and more. This variety of phytonutrients is one reason why blueberries, and berries in general, are so good for you. All plant foods have multiple types of phytonutrients so eating a diet filled with plant foods will provide you with a variety of powerful nutrients to support your overall health and wellbeing!
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To your good health,