What are Phytonutrients?

We spend a great deal of energy concentrating on macronutrients, or what we call “The Big Three”- Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrates. Nutritional labeling on packaged food lists the grams and the Percentage Daily Value of these macronutrients based on a 2,000 calorie diet. While this information is useful, it isn’t complete. What we don’t see on nutritional labeling is phytonutrients.

Phytonutrients are health boosters and are found only in plant food. Plants produce these substances to protect themselves from harmful bacteria and viruses. Phytonutrients appear to do the same in humans, helping our bodies fight against disease and promoting good health.

Phytonutrients come in many classes, but those most commonly known are carotenoids, flavonoids and phytoestrogens.

We  know the most about carotenoids. They protect against certain cancers, heart disease, and even vision loss due to macular degeneration. Carrots, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, tomatoes, oranges and sweet potatoes are full of carotenoids.

Plant food is rich in vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and phytonutrients. One orange contains more than 170 phytonutrients! Organic produce has even more, with an organic apple having three times the nutrient content as a conventionally grown apple.