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Phytonutrients – What Are Phytonutrients?

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Phytonutrients – What Are Phytonutrients?

Phytonutrients are organic components of plants, and these components are thought to promote human health. Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and teas are rich sources of them.

There are 9 major classes of them. They are:

  • Carotenoids
  • Flavonoids (Polyphenols) including Isoflavones (Phytoestrogens)
  • Inositol Phosphates (Phytates)
  • Lignans (Phytoestrogens)
  • Isothiocyanates and Indoles
  • Phenols and Cyclic Compounds
  • Saponins
  • Sulfides and Thiols
  • Terpenes

When it comes to antioxidant fruits, some of these classes do not apply. The ones that do are:

  • Carotenoids – are the red, orange and yellow pigments in fruits and vegetables. Fruits that are high in carotenoids appear to protect humans against certain cancers, heart disease and age related macular degeneration.
  • Flavonoids (Polyphenols) – Polyphenols are compounds that are a natural component of a wide variety of plants. Fruits rich in polyphenols are purple grapes, bilberries and cranberries. Polyphenols can be classified as non-flavonoids and flavonoids. Ellagic acid is a non-flavonoid. A source of this is bilberries. Anthocyanins, flavones, flavonols are flavonoids and sources include many antioxidant fruits.

Phytonutrients serve as antioxidants, enhance immune response, enhance cell-to-cell communication, convert to vitamin A (beta-carotene is metabolized to vitamin A), cause cancer cells to die, repair DNA damage caused by smoking and other toxic exposures and detoxify carcinogens through the activation of the cytocrome P450 and Phase II enzyme systems.To read more in depth about them, click the following link which will take you to the USDA’s website and FAQs about them.

To read more in depth about them, take a look at the USDA’s website and FAQs about phytonutrients.


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