The world of nutrition can be a rather dizzying catalog of multi-syllabic, hard to pronounce words that might seem impenetrable to many. However under closer analysis their meanings and importance can quickly be understood. Phytonutrients is a word that we are encountering more and more these days, and it is taken from the Greek word for plant.

What are Phytonutrients?

They are natural compounds found in plant foods and help to protect the vitality of the plant from UV rays and also germs, fungus and bugs. They have fantastic health benefits for those that eat them, providing health and promoting properties such as liver support, reduction of inflammation and antioxidants.

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They are found in fruit, vegetables, legumes and wholegrains and are not related to fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins or minerals.

What benefits can you get?

Phytonutrients work alongside other essential nutrients and promote optimal cellular function and communication, which is essential for good health. The phytonutrient benefits are vast:

– Help our cells communicate better with each other.

– Prevent cells from mutating.

– Anti-inflammatory.

– Potent antioxidants.

They have been found to help with the prevention of cancer, heart disease and other chronic health issues, including anti-aging, boosting the immune system, promoting hormonal health and have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.

Phytonutrients sources

There are thousands of phytonutrients found in plant foods, but some of the key phytonutrient benefits come from carotenoids, flavonoids, resveratrol and phytoestrogens.

Caratenoids

They are found in red, yellow and orange fruit and vegetables and are powerful antioxidants which fight free radicals, which damage our cells and can cause disease.

Flavanoids

Flavonoids are antioxidants which reduce inflammation. They help prevent disease such as heart disease, asthma and cancer. Good sources include: green tea, citrus fruits, apples, berries and onions.

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Resveratol

It is thought to help extend life and promote healthy ageing, as it is source of potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Resveratol is primarily found in grapes and therefore grape juice and red wine.

Phytoestrogens

They are essential for promoting hormone balance. They have oestrogen-like properties and can block it in the body. Found in soy, flaxseeds, sesame seeds and walnuts.

How can you get more in your diet?

Aim to include a variety of plant based foods, such as vegetables and fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes in your meals and snacks every day. 5 a day may be enough for maintaining health, but 9 a day is the minimum you should be aiming for optimal health.

Extra tips for more Phytonutrients!

– Add extra vegetables and fruit to your salads (avocados, citrus fruits, peaches and apples are good additions), as a side for every meal.

– Consume a green smoothie every morning and load it up with kale, spinach, apple and almond milk. Add flaxseeds for an extra boost.

– Pack your stew, curry, stirfry or chili with extra vegetables, beans and legumes.

– Add blueberries and red berries to your morning porridge or overnight oats.

– Have a snack of grapes with a small handful of nuts and seeds.

– Try having fermented tofu in your stirfry, instead of meat and fish.

– Replace refined carbohydrates with quinoa, brown rice and buckwheat.

To read more about Rebecca Boulton, visit her Expert Profile.

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