Plant Based Health Boosting Nutrients | Photo Credits: The Foodie
New Delhi: Phytonutrients are natural compounds produced by plants. It keeps the plant healthy while protecting it from the sun, insects and other microorganisms. They are found in thousands in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, tea, whole grains, beans and spices. Phytonutrients have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help to boost your disease resistance, immunity, scavenges harmful free radicals, and keep you energetic.
Carotenoids – Carotenoids give yellow, orange and red colours in fruits and vegetables. They act as an antioxidant in the body and deal with the harmful free radicals that damage the tissues in the body.
The types of carotenoids are:
Your body converts them into vitamin-A, which supports the working of the immune system, prevents certain cancers and improves eye and skin health.
Found in foods like pumpkins, carrots, spinach, kale, tomatoes, oranges and yam.
Ellagic acid: Ellagic acid is known to reduce the risk of cancer, for it has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It might help your liver neutralize cancer-causing germs. It also reduces cholesterol. Ellagic acid detoxifies the body and is helpful in reducing the effects of obesity.
Raspberries are said to have the highest levels of ellagic acid.
Found in foods like strawberries, pomegranates, blackberries, grapes, walnuts and pecans.
Flavonoids: They are the largest groups of phytonutrients. Flavonoids are rich in antioxidants and have anti-cancerous properties in them. They aid in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, weight management, longevity and prevention of neurodegenerative disease.
Found in foods like green tea, apples, onions, coffee, grapefruits, legumes and ginger.
The sub-groups of flavonoids are:
flavones; are pigments in blue and white flowering plants, and help with inflammation in the body.
Lignans: Lignans are considered as phytoestrogens because they mimic the effects of estrogen. They are associated with preventing hormone-related cancers, like endometrial and ovarian cancers. Lignans are involved in cytostatic activity against colon cancer cell lines. They are fibre-associated compounds.
Found in foods like grains, nuts, seeds, wheat bran, coffee, and flaxseeds.
Lycopene: Lycopene is chemically a carotene, but it has no Vitamin-A activity. It is an antioxidant that protects the body from free radical damage. A diet rich in lycopene is linked to reducing prostate cancer and cancers of breast, lungs and kidneys. It also reduces the risk of premature death from heart disease.
Found in foods like tomatoes, guavas, watermelon, papaya, cooked sweet red bell peppers, fresh tomatoes and pink grapefruit.
Increasing the amount of phytonutrient-rich food in your diet can not only boost your immunity system but also your antioxidant activity. Though, if you aren’t getting enough of them, supplements are always available. But, it’s best if you derive their benefits from naturally available foods, mostly fruits and vegetables.
Nmami Agarwal is a guest contributor. Views expressed are personal.
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