A healthy diet should contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other trace nutrients. Phytochemicals and phytonutrients are a group of nutrients that are extremely beneficial for the body.
Phytochemicals and phytonutrients are usually found in plant based foods, like fruits and vegetables. There are many phytochemicals found in these natural foods and they have numerous health benefits. A healthy diet must contain phytochemicals and phytonutrients.
Some of the health benefits of phytonutrients are; improving immune health, anti-inflammatory properties, and cellular repair. They have antiviral and antibacterial properties. Most of the phytochemicals have antioxidant properties also.
They can prevent some diseases. However, phytochemicals are not essential for the functioning of the human body. But, their consumption promotes general health. Phytochemicals are not destroyed when food is chopped, grated, cooked, etc. Thus, their behaviour is different from vitamins and trace minerals.
On the contrary, some of these processing techniques actually help absorption of phytochemicals in our body. For instance, when we cut onions and garlic, the sulphur compounds present in them are released. The exposure to air triggers the release of these sulphur compounds. Lycopene, a phytonutrient in tomato, becomes stronger when they are processed for making tomato sauce.
Phytochemicals and phytonutrients fight the free radicals in our body. These free radicals damage the healthy cells in our body. This leads to developments of diseases and ailments. However, the consumption of phytochemicals triggers production of various enzymes in our body.
These enzymes get rid of the harmful free radicals from our body. To ensure that you get enough phytonutrients, eat at least five cups of fruits and vegetables daily. Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables to about 12 cups if you are already suffering from any disease or health ailments.
Thousands of phytochemicals and phytonutrients are present in natural foods. Only a few of these have been identified and analysed. Some of the known phytonutrients are; flavonoids, indoles, bioflavonoids,lycopene, carotenoid, anthocyanins etc.
Consuming juice of fruits and vegetables is an excellent way to increase intake of phytochemicals and phytonutrients. Limit consumption of meat; fish can be included in your diet though. The ratio of meat to vegetables in your diet must be 1:5. Pick fruits and vegetables in rainbow colors if you want a diet rich in phytonutrients.
They are present in abundance in red, yellow and orange colored fruits and vegetables. Plants belonging to the same group of families tend to have the same phytochemicals in them. All orange colored fruits contain the carotenoid phytochemicals. Nuts and flaxseeds are also rich sources of phytochemicals. Apart from these, they are also present in victuals like tea, chocolate, etc.