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What Are Phytonutrients? What Are Their Benefits To Human Health?

The nutrients found in foods play a vital role in maintaining the functions of the human body. Some of the commonly found nutrients in food include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals.

Along with these nutrients, phytonutrients are also found, which are essential plant compounds with various structures and health-promoting properties.

Here, we will discuss phytonutrients in detail. Take a look.

What Are Phytonutrients?

Phytonutrients are natural plant chemicals that are not nutrients, as they are created by plants exclusively in certain cell types, not in energy metabolism, anabolic or catabolic metabolism.

Some of the phytochemicals found in plants include polyphenols, resveratrol, terpenoids, isoflavonoids, carotenoids, flavonoids, phytoestrogens, anthocyanins, probiotics, glucosinolates and omega-3 fatty acids. [1]

Phytonutrients vary from primary plant chemicals as they are not required for the survival of the plants. They play a vital role in plant secondary metabolism as insect and UV repellents and growth regulators. Also, phytonutrients usually have a pharmacological impact and only occur in low quantities. [2]

Studies say that phytonutrients were used in naturopathy as medicinal plants, spices, teas and meals in the ancient times. Phytochemicals have a wide range of health benefits in humans. They are found in vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes and whole grains and have been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular and other disorders.

Different Colours Of Phytonutrients

Phytonutrients are compounds that give plants their natural colours, along with unique flavour, tastes and aromas. Each colour type is nutritious in its way and has amazing benefits, the reason why medical experts suggest consuming foods containing a good mix of these coloured phytonutrients. [3]

Also, most of the phytonutrients are present in the skin of the coloured foods, which is why the peeling of carrots, berries, onions and brinjal is not suggested to preserve their concentration.

Benefits Of Phytonutrients

A study talks about the health benefits of natural food colours. [4]

Colour Name of the phytonutrient present Benefits Sources
Red
  • Carotenoids like lycopene and astaxanthin
  • Anti-inflammatory [5]
  • Antioxidative
  • Immune-boosting.
  • Berries like raspberries and strawberries.
  • Cherries
  • Red onions
  • Watermelon
  • Apples.
Yellow
  • Bromelain
  • Lutein
  • Prebiotic fibres
  • Gingerol
  • Rutin
  • Antioxidant
  • Maintains gastrointestinal health. [6]
  • Affects satiety.
  • Ginger
  • Pineapple
  • Yellow capsicum
  • Potato
  • Corn
Orange
  • Alpha-carotene [7]
  • Bioflavonoids
  • Alpha-carotene
  • Beta-carotene
  • Good for fertility
  • Manages symptoms of endometriosis and menopause.
  • Good for eyes.
  • Protects against harmful radiation.
  • Pumpkin
  • Peaches.
  • Sweet potato
  • Carrot
  • Yams
  • Turmeric
Blue/Purple
  • Anthocyanins [8]
  • Flavonoids
  • Procyanidins
  • Quercetin
  • Kaempferol
  • Hydroxycinnamic acids
  • Improves cognition.
  • Good for heart
  • Manages and prevents diabetes
  • Prevents risk of Alzheimer's
  • Good for bones
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Black grapes
  • Figs
  • Brinjal
  • Raisins
Green
  • Catechins
  • Isoflavones [9]
  • Tannins
  • Folates
  • Chlorophyll
  • Delays ageing.
  • Good for heart
  • Antioxidant
  • Kiwi
  • Avocado
  • Beet greens
  • Peas
  • Green beans
  • Okra
White and brown
  • Allicin
  • Kaempferol
  • Quercetin
  • Anti-tumour
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Radish

To Conclude

Phytonutrients may help prevent many diseases and maintain good health only when they are consumed in combination with other nutrients like fibre, minerals and vitamins.

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