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Add phytonutrients to your diet to fight and prevent health issues

Plant-based foods contain thousands of natural chemicals which are called phytonutrients. They keep plants healthy, but they are also beneficial for humans.
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Eat adequate quantities of fruits and veggies to ensure your dose of phytonutrients. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Aayushi Gupta Updated: 19 Oct 2021, 16:06 pm IST
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We hear a lot about the nutrients and their role in enriching our overall health. But have you ever heard about the benefits of phytonutrients for the human body? Let’s first understand what phytonutrients are!

These are the compounds that give plants their rich colour as well as their distinctive taste and aroma. You probably know macronutrients — protein, carbs and fat — are the building blocks of your nutrition. But what you might not know is phytonutrients can also give you tons of health benefits.

phytonutrients
Make sure your plate is full of colours! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Phytonutrients, also known as phytochemicals, protect plants from threats in their natural environment such as disease and excessive sun. When humans eat plant food, phytonutrients protect them from chronic diseases. But unlike vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients aren’t essential. 

Some of the most common phytonutrients are:
  • Carotenoid
  • Flavonoid
  • Resveratrol
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Ellagic acid
How do phytonutrients help in improving your health?

 

  • Carotenoid: “They are vital antioxidants that safeguard you from various diseases like eye problems and enhance your immune system. The most prevalent carotenoids in the human diet are found in orange, red, and yellow coloured fruits and vegetables,” Nafisa Habib, senior dietitian, Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai tells HealthShots.

The types of carotenoids that may have other health benefits include Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Your body converts all of these to vitamins A. 

Sources of carotenoid are red, orange, yellow, and green fruits and vegetables like apricots, brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, carrots, red pepper, oranges, papaya, watermelon, tomatoes and spinach. 

 

  • Flavonoids: Flavonoids are a very large group of phytonutrients which include quercetin and kaempferol. These are present in almost all fruits and vegetables, especially found in apples, onions, tea, and green leafy vegetables.

“They are also jam-packed with anti-inflammatory effects and protect the cells from oxidative damage causing diseases,” says Habib. 

Additionally, flavonoids can prevent the development of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and even dementia, the expert adds. But be mindful of the fact that 80 percent of the flavonoids can be lost during the cooking process. The change in vivid colour getting faded while cooking can give us an estimation of phytonutrient loss.

phytonutrients
Phytonutrients are of different types. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

 

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  • Resveratrol: Grapes are the best known source of resveratrol. It has particularly high concentration in grape skin and red wine and may be particularly beneficial as it may reduce the risk of heart disease.

According to the Linus Pauling Institute, resveratrol may help slow cognitive decline. 

 

  • Phytoestrogens: Phytoestrogens are the class of nutrients that are protective against estrogen-related cancer. “They are plant-based compounds that lower the risk of menopausal symptoms, cardiovascular disease, and even breast cancer. They also help in maintaining normal bone density,” says Habib.

Sources of phytoestrogens include soya, legumes, tofu, broccoli and oranges. 

  • Ellagic acid (EA): Ellagic acid is present in several fruits such as cranberries, pomegranate, raspberries, strawberries, says Habib, adding that it is derived from fruits. It is known to be antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic, and helps to improve  cardiovascular functions.”

So ladies, next time add phytonutrients to your plate!

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About the Author

Aayushi Gupta is a health writer with a special interest in trends related to diet, fitness, beauty and intimate health. With around 2 years of experience in the wellness industry, she is connected to leading experts and doctors to provide our readers with factually correct information. ...Read More

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