Phytochemicals, also known as phytonutrients, are compounds produced by plants, which have been shown to be beneficial to health. Studies have reported that they can reduce inflammation and fight harmful free radicals, thus helping to maintain good gut health and overall health.
There are many different phytochemicals providing lots of different health benefits and one of these most well known 'groups' of phytochemicals are polyphenols.
Polyphenols, such as carotenoids, have been shown to provide numerous benefits, including decreasing cancer risk, supporting eye health and immune function. There are hundreds of different carotenoids, including beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene. It is best to eat a carotenoid with a fat source, since this will promote optimal absorption. You can find carotenoids in sweet potatoes, cantaloupe melon, carrots and dark leafy greens, such as kale and spinach.
Ellagic acid is another potent polyphenol that has antioxidant and ant-inflammatory properties. It has also been reported to reduce the risk of cancer. The best food source is raspberries. Other good food sources, include: strawberries, blackberries, grapes, walnuts and pecans.
Flavonoids are also part of the polyphenol class of phytonutrients, and are rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. Also in the flavonoid family we have flavones, isoflavones and flavonols. Good food sources are apples, onions, soy, coffee, legumes, ginger and green tea.
Glucosinolates are sulfur-containing compounds that may promote longevity by protecting against chronic disease, and good food sources are broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mustard and horseradish.
Resveratrol is my favourite polyphenol, and is predominantly found in the skin of grapes and red wine! Resveratrol promotes cardiovascular health and also cognitive health. Good food sources, include: blueberries, strawberries, dark chocolate and peanuts.
If you eat a wide and varied diet with lots of different coloured plant foods, you will be getting lots of different phytonutrients in your diet that will provide lots of different health benefits!