Phytonutrients are quite simply, plant nutrients. These nutrients, also referred to as phytochemicals, contribute to the vibrant spectrum of colours found in produce. Phytonutrients protect the plant itself from disease, pollution, UV damage and foreign invaders. The protective action of phytonutrients also works to promote human health when eaten. 
Each colour provides a different protective function and phytochemical. Most plants contain a variety of phytonutrients, not an isolated nutrient. However, they aren’t always obvious to the human eye. For example, kale contains a large amount of the phytonutrient, beta-carotene, but it’s easily disguised by the high levels of chlorophyll (the dark green pigment) in the leaves.

“Eating the rainbow,” is key to obtaining the full spectrum of phytonutrients that plants have to offer.
Health Benefits of Phytonutrients 

Phytonutrients have been well-studied for their disease-fighting role in human health. Many studies have shown phytonutrients to provide the following benefits (and many more):

  • Boost immune function
  • Fight degenerative diseases
  • Contain anticancer compounds
  • Promote bone health
  • Support the heart & cardiovascular system
  • Increase HDL “good” cholesterol
  • Provide potent anti-inflammatory action
  • Improve the body’s detoxification function & efficiently eliminate toxins
  • Improve skin health & provide anti-aging support
  • Work to repair DNA
  • Enhance cell communication 

The Journal of Nutrition, published a study that stated the efficacy of epidemiological studies on the connection between regular fruit and vegetables consumption and lowered risk of chronic diseases (e.g. cancer and cardiovascular disease). The same study concluded that the phytonutrients contained in produce, are best absorbed through food, in their complex package, not as a single, isolated nutrient in supplement form. 

Clinical trials of supplementary, single-dose or combination phytonutrients (usually sold as antioxidant supplements or as a phytonutrient supplement blend), don’t have the same effects as the phytonutrient package delivered from whole foods. The same study emphasized produce diversity and abundance in the diet, to ensure you’re obtaining a wide range of phytonutrients.

Regarding the humble cabbage, a study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, showed the phytonutrients present in cabbage to have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action. The study concluded that these properties are helpful in the prevention of chronic diseases that are linked with oxidative stress (e.g. cancer and coronary artery disease).

Ruby-red pomegranates are rich in health-supportive phytochemicals and have been marketed as an antioxidant-packed superfood for many years now. A study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, provided verification of this idea. Pomegranate phytonutrients were shown to have chemopreventive properties against hepatic (liver) cancer.

Of course, it’s better to eat a pomegranate than to drink the bottled, pasteurized juices. This way you'll be ingesting the complete bundle of phytonutrients that's recommended for optimal absorption. If you like pomegranate juice, try juicing it yourself to preserve the most vitamins and minerals (and skip the pasteurization process).

Taste the Rainbow! 
Red Vegetables & Fruits

Red beets, red bell pepper, red onions, red cabbage, red potatoes, tomatoes, rhubarb, radicchio, cherries, raspberries, red apples, goji berries, pomegranates, red grapes, watermelon, strawberries, red grapefruit, blood oranges.

Phytonutrients & Benefits of Red Produce

The phytonutrients, anthocyanins, catechins, cholorgenic acid and lycopene are most abundant in red-hued produce. These protect heart health, memory, reduce the risk of some cancers, improve urinary tract health and boost immune function.

Green Vegetables & Fruits 

Kale, spinach, broccoli, parsley, green tea, bok choy, lettuce, green beans, green bell peppers, peas, zucchini, avocado, green grapes, kiwi, limes, honeydew melon. 

Phytonutrients & Benefits of Green Produce

The phytonutrients most prominent in green produce are lutein, indoles, monoterpenes, sulforaphane, zeaxanthin and phenethyl isothiocyanate. These compounds work to reduce the risk of prostate, breast, lung and other common cancers; improve eye health; enhance skeletal structure and boost immune function.

Orange/Yellow Vegetables & Fruits

Butternut squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow tomatoes, yellow summer squash, corn, pumpkins, acorn squash, yellow bell peppers, mangoes, oranges, pineapple, cantaloupe, apricots, peaches.

Phytonutrients & Benefits of Orange/Yellow Produce

These golden gems contain carotenoids, bioflavonoids and limonoids. The phytonutrient compounds present have been shown to boost immune function, promote skin health, enhance cardiovascular/heart health and have anticancer activity.

Purple/Blue Vegetables & Fruits

Eggplant, red cabbage, purple potatoes, blackberries, blueberries, prunes, plums, raisins, black currants, acai berries.  

Phytonutrients & Benefits of Purple/Blue Produce

The blue and purple pigment found in these vegetables and fruits are rich in phenolics and anthocyanins. These phytochemicals are shown to promote skin health, reduce aging, lower the risk of certain cancers, support memory and improve urinary tract health. 

White/Brown Vegetables & Fruits

Cauliflower, potatoes, garlic, ginger, parsnips, onions, turnips, mushrooms, bananas, pears, dates, figs, white tea.

Phytonutrients & Benefits of White/Brown Produce

White and brown-hued produce shouldn’t be discounted or seen to be nutritionally vacant. The allium family (e.g. garlic, onions and shallots) are particularly high in disease-fighting compounds.

The phytochemicals most prominent in white/brown produce are phytosterols, phenethyl isothiocyanate, allicin and genistein. These work to promote healthy cholesterol levels, improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of certain cancers (particularly breast and lung cancer).

Variety is the Spice of Life 

Eating a wide spectrum of colours ensures you’re getting a variety of phytonutrients. With this array of pigments, you’ll avert dietary boredom, tickle your tastebuds and promote a stronger, healthier, more vibrant body.



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