Consume the rainbow!*
Phytonutrients are natural components of plant foods with health-promoting qualities. When consumed, they can help protect against chronic diseases. Though not essential nutrients, they can provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. They can act to boost the immune system, protect against cancer, provide detoxification, regulate estrogen metabolism and repair damage from toxin exposure, to name a few of the potential benefits. Sources include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, teas, spices, nuts, and beans.
Phytonutrients come in a broad spectrum of colors, and each color tends to have its own unique properties.
What’s in it? Compounds include carotenoids, flavonols, lycopene, quercetin, and ellagitannins.
Why do we need it? These foods can provide anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, immune health and vascular health benefits.
Where do I get it? Eat some pomegranate, beets, apples, raspberries, Rooibos tea, and beans.
Pomegranates contain Ellagitannins which has been shown to have anticancer effects, especially for prostate cancer. Throw some pomegranate seeds on your salad or eat plain as a snack!
Why do we need it? Orange foods promote eye and skin health, cancer reduction, immune protection, and heart health.
What’s in it? Compounds include beta-carotene, carotenoids, and bioflavonoids.
Where can I get it? Good sources include carrots, apricots, pumpkin, and turmeric.
Carotenoids, which can be found in carrots, are well-known phytonutrients for their eye protecting benefits. They also can strengthen the immune system, and reduce cardiovascular and cancer risk. To get the most phytonutrient benefit from your carrots, cook to break down the fiber and coat in a healthy fat such as olive oil for serving. The fat will help this nutrient to be better absorbed.
Why do we need it? Yellow foods promote eye, heart, and cognitive health as well as having anti-inflammatory properties.
What’s in it? Compounds include lutein and zeaxanthin.
Where can I get it? Add some apple, lemon, squash, ginger root and/or bananas to your day.
Lutein, which can be found in yellow peppers, is a phytonutrient that is also well known for supporting vision health. In particular, it can help prevent macular degeneration and lower the risk of developing cataracts. Try making some stuffed yellow bell peppers to get your daily dose of eye protection! This is another nutrient that will be better absorbed if consumed with fat.
Why do we need it? Green foods provide anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, support hormone, heart, and liver health and promote cell protection.
What’s in it? Compounds include catechins, glucosinolates, chlorophyll, isoflavones, phytosterols, phenols, and tannins, to name just a few!
Where can I get it? Consume broccoli, cabbage, avocado, cucumbers, green tea, limes, and olives.
Avocados are a source of phytosterols. These are compounds which resemble cholesterol and compete for their absorption in your GI tract. They can block cholesterol absorption and therefore reduce cholesterol. So next time you reach for a hamburger (or turkey burger!), top it with some avocado to get some of the heart-healthy benefits!
What’s in it? Compounds include anthocyanidins, resveratrol, procyanidins.
Why do we need it? These foods provide anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits, as well as promote heart and cognitive health.
Where do I get it? Berries, eggplant, fig, olives, raisins, and cabbage are great sources
Blueberries are a source of resveratrol. This phytonutrient can help regulate blood sugar, reduce inflammation, and support brain health. Throw some frozen blueberries into your warm oatmeal in the morning for an antioxidant boost! Frozen berries retain their phytonutrient properties well.
What’s in it? Compounds include allicin, lignins, lignans, tannins, cellulose, theobromine, and allicin.
Why do we need it? These foods provide anti-cancer, anti-microbial, gastrointestinal and liver health, hormone balance, and heart health properties.
Where do I get it? Cauliflower, cocoa, dates, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, onions and teas.
Allicin is a phytonutrient found in garlic. This phytonutrient has antimicrobial properties, supports the immune system, has anti-cancer properties and promotes heart & vascular health. Throw some minced garlic in your olive oil before adding colorful veggies to your stir fry tonight!
To get the most phytonutrient benefits, try to make your plate as colorful as you can at every meal! This will ensure you get a variety of nutrients and health benefits. Also, make sure to mix it up. Try new fruits and vegetables so you aren’t missing out on any valuable phytonutrients. Let us know if you need more tips and tricks to boost the nutrient contents of your meal. We are happy to help!
*Adapted from the Institute of Functional Medicine’s ‘Phytonutrient Spectrum Comprehensive Guide’