We have all heard that plants are essential for good health. And, most everyone is aware that plants are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber–elements our body needs for optimal health. But the health enhancing benefits of plants don’t stop there. Perhaps, even more important than the elements mentioned above is the presence of thousands of other natural chemicals present in all plant foods, called phytonutrients or phytochemicals.
“Phyto” is the Greek word for plant. These chemicals help protect plants from germs, fungi, pests, and other environmental threats. And when we ingest them, they protect our health from various threats as well. They are best known for their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/phytonutrients/
All plant foods including whole grains, nuts, beans, and teas contain phytonutrients. However, they are most abundant in fruits and vegetables. Though there are more than 100,000 phytonutrients found in plant foods, we will just take 3 and discuss their health benefits and a few of their plant sources in this blog.
Beta-carotene is perhaps the best known phytonutrient. This is a precursor to Vitamin A which helps keep our immune system working properly and is essential for eye health. https://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/phytonutrients-faq#1
Sources (orange colored plants) – carrots, apricots, mangoes, sweet potatoes
Lycopene has strong antioxidant properties, helps prevent cancer, and alleviates neuropathic pain. Since it is a fat-soluble nutrient, it is better absorbed when consumed with fats such as avocado or seeds.
Sources (red colored plants) – tomatoes, watermelon, red cabbage, guavas
Resveratol has gained a lot of media attention as being present in red wine and having anti-aging benefits. Since this unique antioxidant can cross the blood-brain barrier, it may help protect the brain and the nervous system. Additionally, its anti-inflammatory properties promote cardiovascular health. https://draxe.com/all-about-resveratol/
Sources (blue/purple colored plants) – red grapes, blueberries, eggplant, plum
Unlike vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients can not be ingested in a supplement pill. We must eat whole plant foods to get these amazing nutrients and their health benefits!