How Phytonutrients Help Your Diet

| 4/26/2018 1:45:00 PM

Are you getting enough phytonutrients? The odds are high that you're not, according to recent Amway research published in the British Journal of Nutrition and available on Amway's website. More than six in 10 adults fall short of the World Health Organization's recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables, the primary source of phytonutrients. Most adults would have to double their daily fruit and vegetable intake just to reach the WHO's minimum recommendation of five servings per day (400 grams per day). Adults who consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day have phytonutrient levels two to six times higher than those who only consume fewer than five servings per day.

Why is it so important to make sure you get enough phytonutrients in your diet? And what can you eat to make sure you're getting enough? Here's some information to help you understand phytonutrients, why they're so important for your body, and where you can find sources of them.

fresh berries in glasses
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What Are Phytonutrients?

Phytonutrients, also known as phytochemicals (both named from the Greek word for "plant"), are chemicals produced by plants that yield health benefits for plants and for animals and people who consume plants. In plants, they may perform functions such as promoting growth, blocking radiation, and repelling insects. In humans, phytonutrients may have benefits such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial effects.

There are more than 25,000 known types of phytonutrients. Some of the major categories of phytonutrients include carotenoids, chlorophyll, curcuminoids, flavonoids, fiber, garlic, indole-3 carbinol, phytosterols, resveratrol, and soy isoflavones. Phytonurtients often provide plants with distinctive coloration, so they are also informally categorized by the colors they give food, such as the green in spinach, the orange in carrots, or the blue in blueberries; however, not all phytonutrients have distinctive colors. Phytonutrients are distinguished from essential nutrients, which are required for the body to function properly but can't be produced by the body, and include proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water.

Why Are Phytonutrients Important?

While phytonutrients are not as crucial as essential nutrients for staying alive, they perform extremely important biological functions that can help you stay healthy and function at your optimal level. For example, carotenoids act as antioxidants, inhibiting oxidation reactions that can damage cells. In addition to these general antioxidant properties, some types of carotenoids provide other specialized benefits. For instance, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin can be converted into Vitamin A, which promotes a healthy immune system and good vision.

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