Phytonutrients (otherwise known as phytochemicals) are chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants (“phyto” means “plant” in Greek). Some are responsible for color of foods – such as the deep purple color of blueberries; others are responsible for the smells of certain foods – such as the smell of garlic or onions.
Phytochemicals have an important role to play in human health, even though they are not established as essential nutrients. There are more than 4000 different phytochemicals known today, with more being discovered every year.
Many phytonutrients are potent antioxidants; this is the reason we are often encouraged to “eat the rainbow” , meaning we should consume as many deep colored vegetables and fruits as possible on a daily basis. Doing so will insure that we consume a wide variety of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds that will help improve our health.
Our next several posts will detail specific phytonutrients as well as how they can benefit our health.