Everyone seems to know about the importance of vitamins and minerals, but do you know what phytonutrients are?
Phyto- means plant.
Phytonutrients are not vitamins or minerals, they are organic compounds that are found in plants that can provide 3 important helpful regulations in our bodies:
1. They act as antioxidants, preventing development of free radicals or even destroying them- as in cancer cells.
2. They can regulate hormone levels
3. They can eliminate toxins in your body
Author Deborah Mitchell speaks on phytonutrients in her book: The Complete Book of Nutritional Healing.
There are many phytonutrients that can help you lead a healthier life.
Carotenoids: Plant pigments which give them their color. Included in carotenoids are alpha and beta carotene, lutein ( helpful to eye health), lycopene ( the bright color in tomatoes also good for eye health), and Zeaxanthin- another eye health phytonutrient.
That is why they say – eat your carrots for your eyes- Carrots– Carotenoids!
These carotenoids can also protect the skin against ultraviolet radiation.
Flavonoids: This includes anthocyanins, catechins, ellagic acid, flavonols, isoflavones, quercetin and resveratrol. These antioxidants can prevent blood clotting, protect against heart disease, lower harmful estrogen levels, protect the eyes, and improve symptoms of arthritis and allergies.
Indoles and Isothiocyanates– Found in cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower and kale. They help to reduce cancer risk by activating enzymes that detoxify carcinogens, lower levels of harmful estrogen, and suppress tumor growth.
Lignans-These are insoluble fibers that act as antioxidants. They are found in whole grains and berries.
Phenols– Found in nearly all fruit, veggies and grains. They act as antioxidants, preventing blood clotting, activating enzymes that fight cancer, and prevent inflammation.
Phytates- found mainly in cereal grains, nuts and legumes, they may help prevent the formation of free radicals that can cause cancer.
Saponins- Tomatoes, garlic, onions and spinach. They help block the absorption of cholesterol and lower the amount of fats circulating in the bloodstream.
Sulfides- found in chives, garlic, leeks, onions and shallots. They fight bacterial, fungal and viral infections. They can reduce blood glucose levels, enhance circulation and may even help prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol.
Apples are one of the oldest and most popular fruits. Apples are a good source of quercetin, a flavonoid, as well as boron, iron and vitamin B 2.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away is such a true saying! This fruit has a combination of nutrients that help fight just about everything from cancer to constipation and even heart disease.
Taken in part from: Mitchell, D. (2008). The Complete Book of Nutritional Healing. New York, NY. St. Martin’s.