Learn the Terms: Phytonutrients
Phytonutrient is a term used to describe a number of natural chemicals found in plant-based foods that, (unlike Vitamins & nutrients) are non-essential to everyday function. Though they are still highly beneficial to all systems in your body and may help to prevent a wide range of diseases. A phytonutrient can be categorized into six different types:
- Ellagic Acid
Here we’ll go a little deeper into each specific type.
Three common sources of Glucosinolates include mustard, cabbage and horseradish. This phytonutrient is present in most cruciferous vegetables and studies are still being conducted on the power of this chemical to fight cancer. Itв’s responsible for the pungent odor of the previously mentioned plants, but scientists also believe it acts as a natural pesticide and antifungal.
Mostly found in Walnuts, peanuts, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries and grapes. Ellagic Acid is a powerful antioxidant formed through a chemical reaction that takes place within the plant at a certain stage of development. It makes these compounds especially difficult to isolate, but they are highly abundant in the foods listed above when ripened and harvested correctly.
Resveratrol is a unique compound found mostly in the skin of blueberries, grapes, mulberries and raspberries. What makes it unique is how the plant will only produce a high amount of this chemical if it is under physical or fungal attack. Resveratrol is said to be highly beneficial to the heart and may naturally lower blood pressure and make your body more resistant to heart disease.
Phytoestrogens are plant based chemicals that are closely related to the Estrogen hormone created in the human body. The phytoestrogens attach to cells similar to natural estrogen, the effect can be increased or decreased estrogen production. depending on the current hormonal state of the organism. Often time Phytoestrogens act as an inhibitor, tricking the body into believing it needs more estrogen to function. The result (in women) is increased fertility and all the other typical effects that come along with increased estrogen production.
Flavonoids (not to be confused with FlavAnoids) are another type of abundant phytonutrient found in a variety of plant based foods. While flavonoids of different types are responsible for flower pigmentation, (colors like red, yellow, white blue and purple) the health benefits make them the most potent of the phytonutrients on this list. Flavonoids, while consisting of a large variety of different chemicals, have a few profound health benefits that shouldn’t be ignored.
Love the colors of the Fall season? Thank Carotenoids for that! Carotenoids are responsible for the bright green or orange colors found in carrots or algae, but also ripe tomatoes and Autumn leaves before they fall from the tree. This byproduct chemical is a powerful remedy for a number of different ailments and scientific studies on this substance have opened doors to new and exciting uses for concentrated Carotenoids.
I know it’s a lot of information to take in but just relax, you’re well on your way to becoming the master of your own herbal path! Understanding the science behind the herbs is a crucial part of understanding our planet and our place within its systems.