Phytochemicals, flavonoids, isoflavones, polyphenols and antioxidants. We hear these terms used a lot in our everyday lives but what exactly do they mean? And are they good for us?
The term phytonutrients is a broad term for a variety of compounds produced by plants.They are a non-nutritive plant chemical that have protective or disease preventative properties. They are non-essential nutrient, which means the human body does not require these for everyday functions. It is well known that plants produce these chemicals to protect themselves but recent research has demonstrated that they can also protect humans against diseases. With more than a thousand known phytonutrients only a fraction have been studied closely to discover their benefits.
Some common names for Phytonutrients:
Antioxidants, Flavonoids, Allyl Sulfides, polyphenols, carotenoids, lycopene, catchins, anthocyanidins, and isoflavones.
What are the health benefits?
New experimental studies are emerging that demonstrate multiple effects of fruits and vegetables ( and their phytonutrients), suggesting that they may have an even greater role to play in human health than the already positive result seen today. Phytonutrients can provide immune support, skin, eye, heart and bone health, reduce inflammation, ease menopause, lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of cancers and improve vision. Sounds good right?
How do these phytonutrients work?
There are thousands of phytonutrients and each compound works differently. Some known actions of these compounds are protecting our cells against oxidative damage, reducing the risk of cancers, hormonal actions, stimulation of enzymes, protect DNA against carcinogens, anti-bacteria effects and prevention of pathogens agents to cells.
How can you get phytonutrients?
These nutrients are found naturally in plant foods including fruits, vegetables, beans and grains. By maintaing a balanced diet that includes plenty of colours, you’ll provide your body with a wide variety of all beneficial nutrient compounds. It is recommended to take daily at least 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables. They are also rich in minerals, vitamins and fibre while low in saturated ‘bad’ fats.
We all know we should eat more fruits and vegetables a day but know you understand why it is so important. Phytonutrients are just the beginning of a life-long relationship with healthy foods. I hope you continue to explore the research and information on phytonutrients to better understand their effects on the human body.
To obtain more information I’ve added below the URL to a nutrition and health info fact sheet on phytonutrients.