Phytonutrients – what even are they?

They are never talked about in the mainstream media. If you follow nutrition then you will possibly have heard of them but all everyone talks about is macro nutrients and micro nutrients. We really need to know about phytonutients too.

Phytonutrients was not even covered in my nutrition training. I’ve learnt about them through podcasts, reading and research. Its because they are not essential to life. There is no recommended daily amount to take or government guidelines for them so they are forgotten.

They are however so important for optimal health.

Here’s why.

Also known as Phytochemicals, they are chemicals produced by plant foods to help the plant stay healthy. We have all heard that we should be eating the foods that are of the colours of the rainbow right? Phytonutrient (PN from now on) foods include colourful fruits, vegetables but also spices, nuts, seeds and legumes. Could this be another reason why eating plant based is deemed the healthier diet?

In the interest of keeping this short and sweet her is a list of just some of the benefits

High in anti oxidants – substances that may protect your cells against free radicals, which may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases
Anti-inflammatory – reduces inflammation and swelling
Enhancing immunity – help us fight of infections
Links claiming that a diet rich in PN’s if effective in reducing cancer and heart disease (studies or on-going)

There are over 25,000 types of PN’s but here are some you may be familiar with.

Carotenoids – red, orange and yellow fruits/vegetable
Flavonoids – almost all fruits/veg and spices
Curcuminoids – Tumeric
Resveratrol – red wine – but more so the actual skin of grapes!

As mentioned before there is no recommended amount for any of these so there is no need to go and buy supplements for them. Aside from it being a complete waste of money the supplements cannot guarantee the bio availability of them so you don’t actually know how much you are getting anyway. All our needs are very individual.

The best way to get them is to chuck as much into your every day cooking. I am really bad with herbs and spices and knowing what goes with what. My dried herbs usually go out of date! I will really make an effort to include them in every meal. Try to include 30 different plants a week into your food. Buy in season veg. Try new fruits and veg that you wouldn’t usually try. 30 sounds a lot but if you cook from scratch and stay away from convenience food it is very achievable. I’m giving Marley spoon a shout out too. I got a veggie box, 4 veggie meals. I had one last night and it had 7 different plants in it. So that was 7 and I didn’t even have to think about it.

Let’s be more mindful of Phytonutients, I mean its only going to make our food taste better right!!!

Emma x

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