Nutrition Basics

What Are Phytonutrients?

By June 12, 2018No Comments

I bet you’re pretty well-versed in macros: carbs, fats and protein. And you probably know a bit about micronutrients, those are vitamins and minerals. The nutrients found in plants are something different entirely. Phytonutrients, sometimes called phytochemicals, are nourishing compounds in plants.

Think about a plant – let’s say spinach or kale – growing in a field. It has to somehow protect itself from crazy weather, bugs trying to eat it, chemicals being sprayed on it, you get it. It’s hard out there for a plant. So they create these compounds to protect itself, and in turn, those compounds protect us! We can’t produce phytonutrients on our own, and must obtain them through food.

The easiest way to do this is to eat a variety of colorful foods. Let’s start with green, which can indicate that a food is super healthy and may taste super gross simultaneously. Dark green plant foods are full of chlorophyll – aka the “life blood” of plants. Chlorophyll allows plants to convert sunlight into energy and when we ingest it, provides oxygen to our cells. It’s also a great antioxidant, protects our heart and immune system, and is just about the best detoxifying agent around.

Spinach, kale, green bell peppers, bok choy, cucumbers, green olives, and parsley are just a few great ways to get a dose of chlorophyll.

You can also find chlorophyll in liquid form – just add a few drops to a glass of water – and in many green powders. Both good options if you have a sensitive stomach, or if you are traveling and need greens on the go.

Carotenoids and flavonoids are the most well-known phytochemicals that provide vibrant colors seen in fruits, veggies and herbs. Picture a dark purple beet or a bright orange carrot. Yellow, orange and red colors indicate carotenoids, and blue, purple, and some reds indicate flavonoids. Oh, there’s also xanthophylls that are found in green leaves. Fun right? Each category offers a wealth of benefits – you can learn more about them below! Just remember this: sugar, caffeine, preservatives, pesticides and more all deplete our phytonutrient reserves so it’s important to eat (or sip) a few plants on the regular.

Alexa Brynne

Author Alexa Brynne

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