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Phytonutrients

The USDA recommends that most Americans should consume at least 2 cups of fruits and vegetables everyday. These fresh foods have a lot of nutrients such as vitamins and minerals that are essential for the proper function of our bodies. A major benefit of consuming enough vegetables is the phytonutrient content that is naturally found in plants. Phytonutrients are chemicals that are naturally found in and produced by plants. Plants produce phytonutrients to protect themselves from the strength of the sun and any insects that are around.

For us, phytonutrients act as antioxidants and provide support for our bodies to stay healthy. Each plant will produce more or less of a certain phytonutrient. This is why it is recommended to eat a variety of foods so that we can benefit from multiple nutrients. A few examples of phytonutrients are carotenoids, glucosinolates, and ellagic acids.

Carotenoids assist in eye health and help the body fight off infections. A few food sources are pumpkins, carrots, kale, and yams.

Glucosinolates help the body remove toxins and can prevent the body from developing cancer cells. Food sources include cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, and brussel sprouts.

Ellagic acids also have anticancer properties but have also been shown to lower cholesterol levels. Foods that are rich with ellagic acids include raspberries, pomegranates, walnuts, grapes, and blackberries.

Consuming phytonutrients from whole foods is recommended so that we can get the additional nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Quick and easy recipes for salads, soups, or smoothies can help us increase our intake of fruits and vegetables.


References:

Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention. (2012). https://www.cancer.gov/about-

cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cruciferous-vegetables-fact-sheet

Kennedy DO, et al. (2010). Effects of resveratrol on cerebral blood flow variables and cognitive performance in humans: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover investigation. DOI: doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2009.28641