Everyone knows that it’s good to eat your fruit and vegetables! They supply needed vitamins and minerals and fibre, but another way that fruits and vegetables benefit our health is through phytonutrients.
What are phytonutrients?
Phytonutrients are unique compounds found in fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods that have positive effects on our health. There are several thousand phytonutrient compounds that can be found in plant-based foods, and each one supports our bodies in its own way (1). There are two groups of phytonutrients; carotenoids and flavonoids. Each offer valuable benefits for overall health.
Carotenoids: Good for Your Eyes and So Much More
Carotenoids are among the most abundant phytonutrients. Good sources of carotenoids are easy to spot. Colour fruits and vegetables with vivid red, orange and yellow hues. Don’t be fooled, dark green vegetables are also rich sources of carotenoid phytonutrients. There are two standout carotenoids; beta carotene and lycopene.
This carotenoid that can be converted to vitamin A in the body and also has antioxidant properties. Our bodies need vitamin A for several functions, including the maintenance of blood vessels, the immune system and the retina of the eye (2).
Although lycopene cannot be readily converted to vitamin A in the body like beta carotene, lycopene is a powerful phytonutrient that has been linked to a variety of benefits for overall health (3).
Make sure you are getting your carotenoids by enjoying a variety of yellow, orange, red and dark green vegetables every week. Snack on carrot sticks or red and yellow sweet peppers. Stir some spinach into pasta sauce or serve roasted sweet potato wedges as a side dish or snack.
Flavonoids: Free Radical Defenders
The second most important group of phytonutrients. They’re found in foods such as berries, citrus fruits and cacao. What are they good for? Flavonoids are vital nutrients for supporting cardiovascular as well as a variety of other benefits for well–being. Two of these health-promoting compounds include citrus bioflavonoids and resveratrol.
They work together with vitamin C to help defend the body’s precious cardiovascular system from the cellular harm of free radicals while providing strong support for healthy blood vessels (4).
Resveratrol may be best known as the flavonoid found in red wine since it’s naturally produced in the skin of red grapes. We hate to disappoint you, but that doesn’t mean you need to get drunk to get your resveratrol. The sensible way to find it is in small amounts in berries, cacao, and even some nuts. It’s an especially well-studied phytonutrient because of its support for metabolism and healthy ageing (5).
You can boost your flavonoid intake by enjoying foods like citrus fruits and berries. Add orange slices to your salads, use fresh lime juice to make a zesty marinade or blend a handful of berries into your morning shake.
Many of the benefits we receive by eating fruits and vegetables are powered by the phytonutrients they contain. These plant compounds promote well-being in so many ways. Because they play such an essential role in supporting good health, be sure to get your phytonutrients every day.
If only there were a more convenient way to get your phytonutrients in… 😉
- Liu RH. Health benefits of fruit and vegetables are from additive and synergistic combinations of phytochemicals. AJCN. 2003;78:517S-520S.
- Potter AR. Reducing Vitamin A Deficiency: Could Save the Eyesight and Lives of Countless Children. BMJ, 1997;314:317-318
- Kalai Selvan V, Vijayakuman A, Suresh Kumar K, Gyanedra Nath Singh. Lycopene’s Effects on Health and Diseases: A Comprehensive Review of the Literature. Nat Med J. 2011; 3(3):1
- Barreca D, Gattuso G, Bellocco E, Calderaro A, Trombetta D, Smeriglio A, Laganà G, Daglia M, Meneghini S, Nabavi SM. Flavanones: Citrus phytochemical with health-promoting properties. Biofactors. 2017 Jul 8;43(4):495-506.
- Singh AP, Singh R, Verma SS, Rai V, Kaschula CH, Maiti P, Gupta SC. Health benefits of resveratrol: Evidence from clinical studies. Med Res Rev. 2019 Sep;39(5):1851-1891.