With the increasing popularity of plant-based diets, the term "phytonutrient" is becoming a topic of discussion among the community.
As someone who prefers to consume more fruits and vegetables in my diet, I have taken a keen interest in this crucial group of nutrients, which has been well-researched to provide many health benefits. Below are my findings on this all-important nutrient group.
Phyto is the Greek word for plant. (1)
Hence, phytonutrients simply mean "plant-based nutrients".
They are commonly obtained from fruits and vegetables.
Phytonutrients protect plants from germs, fungi, and bugs.
Therefore, consuming these food items will be beneficial to our bodies as well. (2)
You will be surprised to know that there are over 100,000 types of phytonutrient and they can be classed in these 3 broad categories:
Fruits & Veggies
Herbs & Spices
Medicinal plants (3)
You will find a common list of phytonutrients below:
Resveratrol is commonly found in purple fruits and vegetables.
Allicin is commonly found in white fruits and vegetables.
Carotenoids is commonly found in orange and yellow fruits and vegetables.
Lutein is commonly found in green fruits and vegetables.
Lycopene is commonly found in red fruits and vegetables.
Of course, there are a lot of other phytonutrients as well. (4, 5)
The colour of the fruit and vegetable determines the type of phytonutrient that it has.
Purple/blue fruits and vegetables such as grapes, blueberries, eggplant, sweet potato, contain phytonutrients that promote brain health.
Yellow/Orange fruits and vegetables such as pineapples, corn, carrots, oranges, contain phytonutrients that promote vision health.
Red fruits and vegetables such as apples, red turnips, cranberries, tomatoes contain phytonutrients that promote heart health.
Green fruits and vegetables such as green tea, broccoli, kale, green peas contain phytonutrients that promote cellular health.
White fruits and vegetables such as mushrooms, garlic, onions, turnips, contain phytonutrients that promote bone and joint health. (4, 6)
It refers to "the amount of colourful plant pigments and compounds in a food that help prevent disease and promote health".
To sum it all up
Look for food items with low GI (which means the carbohydrates enter your bloodstream slowly) and a high PI (rich in phytonutrients) (7)
According to the World Health Organisation, it is recommended for an individual to get at least 400 grams of fruits and vegetables or 5 servings of fruits and vegetables. Assuming one portion is 80 grams. (9)
If you are not sure about what is one serving, you can refer to this website.
Most importantly, your fruits and vegetables should come from these 5 colour spectrum, purple or blue, red, yellow or orange, green and white to ensure that you get all the essential phytonutrients that your body requires to function at its best.