What are Phytonutrients?

What are Phytonutrients?

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You may not have heard of phytonutrients before, but you have eaten them many times in the past. They are also known as phytochemicals, though that name may not be recognizable either. These are not something you find on the food guide pyramid by name, as they are not essential to the workings of the human body.

However, if you add them to your diet, you can reap some great benefits from them. Phytonutrients can be a great aid in losing and maintaining weight and may aid with fighting diseases, such as cancer.

How Are Phytonutrients Defined?

There are many things that phytonutrients can do for the body. Phytonutrients are antioxidants that are rumored to help the body ward off (but not cure) many forms of cancer. If you have a weakened immune system or if you have an inflammatory disease like arthritis, ingesting phytochemicals can help you be stronger and healthier. Those with a thyroid condition may find some natural relief with phytonutrients as well.

How to Include Them in Your Diet

Those who eat a vegetarian, vegan or raw food diet may already be reaping the benefits of consuming phytonutrients. A daily diet that contains 5-9 servings of fruit and vegetables is considered ideal for good health, but more is better. One of the most common and possibly well-known phytonutrient is carotenoids.

Foods that have this class of phytochemicals are the ones that have the most vivid colors. The carotenoids are the pigments in fruits and vegetables that give them their color. If you eat enough of these foods, you are getting what you need to help your body fight off cancer and can help you avoid heart problems in the future. For the best benefits, try to eat more:

Where Else Can You Get Phytonutrients?

You can find phytonutrients in other sources that you may eat every day. If you do not, do the best you can to get them into your diet. Try many types of berries like raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. Also, see if you can add soy to your diet.

Drinks like herbal teas, green teas and red wines may also have some benefit. If you wish to help with cleaning up the damage many free radicals have on your body (things like smoke and pollution), try to eat more leafy greens, broccoli and brussel sprouts. It is also thought these foods help with a slow metabolism, the immune system, and can detoxify the body to some extent.

Types of Phytonutrients

There are many different types of phytonutrients that can be found in all the aforementioned foods.  These include the following.


There are over 600 different carotenoids.  These are the phytonutrients that make many of your fruits and vegetables red, orange and yellow. These are the good guys associated with a healthy immune system and good eyesight among other things.  Three of the carotenoids shown in research to be linked with health benefits are:

Ellagic Acid

This phytonutrient is found particularly in berries and in fruits with similar properties to berries. This category is believed to offer a range of different forms of cancer protections.  They may even help to slow the growth of cancer cells when they are present.  At the same time, they work in the liver to neutralize chemicals in the body that may otherwise lead to cancers.


There are many types of phytonutrients within this category. These include:


Found in red wine, purple grape juice and grapes, this has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  More research is needed into this substance, but initial studies indicate that it may help to stave off certain cancers and could help to reduce the risk of heart disease.


These are the phytonutrients found in cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts and cabbage. It’s where their strong flavors and smells come from. They can help to hold back cancer growth and development.


These have an impact somewhat similar to estrogen. In fact, they are similar enough that they can block some of the body’s natural estrogen’s effects. They are linked with reducing bone loss in women and reducing the risk of endometrial cancer.

Research is Still Needed 

Understanding how phytonutrients benefit health and weight loss is still being researched, but it certainly does not hurt your body to eat any of the foods mentioned above. They are good for the body in many other already proven ways.

Not only can they help your health, they are great sources of fiber that is known to help curb hunger. These foods help your body work more efficiently and you will feel better and better each day. If phytonutrients can do what is promised, you may live a longer and more active life as well.