The much-needed Phytonutrients and their Sources

By:Ariba Khaliq, Onlymyhealth Editorial Team,Date:Nov 12, 2014

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Phytonutrients are natural compounds found in plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grain products and legumes. They are essentially the plant’s immune system and offer protection to humans as well.
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    What are Phytonutrients?

    “Phyto” is a Greek word for plant. Phytonutrients are the natural chemicals found in plant foods that protect plants from germs, fungi, bugs and other threats. These nutrients aren’t essential for keeping us alive like the way vitamins and minerals from plant foods do. But they are an added advantage to consuming plants because they may prevent diseases and keep our body working properly.

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    Sources of Phytonutrients

    Fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients, but there are some other sources too. Whole grains, nuts, beans, and tea are other plant- based foods that contain phytonutrients. More than 25,000 phytonutrients are found in plant foods. Let us learn about fruits and vegetables that contain important phytonutrients and their potential effects on health.

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    Carrots for Carotenoids

    Carotenoids are antioxidants that provide yellow, orange, and red colours to fruits and vegetables. They help us take on harmful free radicals that damage tissues throughout our body. Carotenoids are of different types such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin and can be converted into vitamin A by our body. Apart from keeping our immune system healthy, vitamin A is beneficial for eye health. Pumpkins, carrots, tomatoes, watermelon, spinach, kale, and pink grapefruit are all rich sources of catotenoids.

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    Berries for Ellagic Acid

    Ellagic acid might possibly help protect against cancer through various ways. It has been found to cause the cancer cells to die. It may also help your liver to neutralize the cancer-causing chemicals in your system. A number of plant sources, especially berries contain ellagic acid. To combat cancer, you must make strawberries, raspberries, and pomegranate a regular part of your diet.

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    Citrus Fruits for Flavonoids

    Flavonoids have many phytonutrients categorised under them and are found in a variety of plant foods. Types of flavonoids are: Catechins help prevent certain types of cancers are especially found in green tea, hesperidins reduce inflammation in the body and help reduce the risk of cancer and are found in citrus fruits, and flavanols help reduce the risk of asthma, certain types of cancers and coronary heart diseases. They are found in apples, berries, grapes, and onions.

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    Grapes for Resveratrol

    Resveratrol has been found by research to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. It may also help extend people’s life span. Resveratrol is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and is found in grapes, purple grape juice, and red wine.

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    Cabbage for Glucosinolates

    These are chemicals that give vegetables their sharp odour and flavour. When we cook, eat and digest vegetables containing glucosinolates, they turn into other chemicals. These derived chemicals may help cease the development and growth of cancer. Glucosinolates are found in cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and broccoli.

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    Soy for Phytoestrogens

    Phytoestrogens can behave in the body like the hormone oestrogen. They can also block the effects of your natural supply of oestrogen. Isoflavones are a type of phytoestrogen found in soy, and soy foods have been linked to lower risk of bone loss in women, and endometrial cancer. Another type of phytoestrogen, lignin is converted by our body and used for oestrogen-like effects. Faxseeds and sesame seeds are good sources of lignans.

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