What are Phytonutrients?
Plants contain organic compounds that promote human health. These protective compounds are referred to as phytonutrients. Phyto originated from a Greek word, which means plant.We have heard that age-old wisdom that fruits and vegetables are vital to human health and long life. Research in the past decades leads us to understand the reason behind this.
Plants have their own immune system in order to survive in the environment. Plants release their own disease-fighting phytochemicals, which promote the production of protective self-repairing cells in plants.
These phytochemicals in plants also generate the same kinds of reactions in human beings. The compounds in plants or phytonutrients release protective enzymes to boost the body’s immune system, inhibit diseased cells, and even fight damage from radiation and ultraviolet light.
In the field of nutrition, we have come to learn about indispensable elements of good health that include traditional nutrients such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. The importance of plant foods goes beyond that of the vitamins and minerals they contain but also in the phytonutrients they produce. Distinct from the traditional nutrients (protein, fat, vitamins, minerals), phytonutrients are not “essential” for life in a traditional stance but are being increasingly acclaimed as having valuable health attributes. As they are non-nutritive plant chemicals that contain protective, disease-preventing capabilities, some people prefer to call them as “phytochemicals”. However, with researchers unearthing more benefits of phytonutrients, a true nutritional role for phytochemicals is becoming more possible and phytochemicals may someday be labelled as essential nutrients.
Phytonutrients may be aptly referred to as guardians of human health as they are vital for optimal health and longevity. While more research is needed to firmly ascertain the mechanisms of action of the various types of phytochemicals, common findings as to benefits of phytonutrients have been put forward as to how they may protect human health. Phytonutrients may indeed work to benefit the human body by enhancing the function of the immune system, serving as antioxidants, acting directly against bacteria and viruses, reducing inflammation, repairing DNA damage caused by toxic exposures, and lowering risk for chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease and other degenerative diseases.
The significant finding on phytonutrients is reason why health organizations suggest between five to nine servings of different fruits and vegetables daily. Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and teas are loaded with phytonutrients. Therefore, the easiest way to get more phytochemicals is to eat more of these plant foods. The more phytochemicals you add to your diet, the greater will be your level of health protection. People who eat large quantities of fruits and vegetables help reduced risks of all kinds of cancer.