Phytonutrients: What They Are and Where to Find Them - eCycle

Phytonutrients: What They Are and Where to Find Them – eCycle

Understand more about phytonutrients and what foods they are present in

You phytonutrients are natural compounds produced by plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, that help them grow. In addition to fighting pathogens and predators of these foods, the compounds are also beneficial to human health and have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Also known as phytochemicals, phytonutrients are not essential for health like other nutrients, vitamins and minerals. However, they are not lost in the body and can be absorbed to potentially prevent disease and keep the body functioning properly.

There are more than 25 thousand types of phytonutrients in plants, however, the most common are:

  • carotenoids
  • ellagic acid
  • flavonoids
  • resveratrol
  • glucosinolates
  • phytoestrogens

Although they contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, each type of phytonutrient has different benefits, which work separately in the body. Learn more about these compounds and how they work in the human body to provide well-being.


Carotenoids are responsible for providing the yellow and orange colors of some foods, such as carrots. There are over 600 types of carotenoids in foods, including lutein and isoflavone. Acting as antioxidants, these phytonutrients help fight the action of free radicals, which damage body tissues.

The types of carotenoids that have the most benefits are alpha-carotenes, beta-carotenes and beta-cryptoxanthines. In the body, these substances are converted into vitamin A, which help in eye health, strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of developing cancer.

Foods rich in carotenoids include:

ellagic acid

Ellagic acid is known for its ability to reduce both cholesterol and cancer risk. Several studies claim that the compound can slow the growth of cancer cells and help the liver to neutralize possible chemicals that contribute to the development of the disease. Furthermore, like most phytonutrientsit also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action.

Although its levels are highest in raspberries, ellagic acid is also present in:


Also known as bioflavonoids, these compounds belong to the largest group of phytonutrients that exists. Rich in antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer activity, there are subgroups of flavonoids, which include flavones, isoflavones, catechins and flavonols.

They are found in foods like:

On the other hand, flavonoids can also reduce the risk of developing asthma, certain cancers and coronary heart disease.


Resveratrol may promote cardiovascular and cognitive health and has been linked to increased cerebral blood flow. Because it has anti-inflammatory effects, the compound is also associated with reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

Resveratrol-rich foods are:


Glucosinolates are responsible for the strong odor and taste in vegetables and are present mainly in cruciferous vegetables. In addition to regulating inflammation, they can also act positively on metabolic function and stress responses.

In a study done on laboratory mice, it was possible to observe that compounds that are formed from broken down glucosinolates inactivate carcinogens and protect cells against DNA damage. Thus, it is also associated with cancer prevention.

Cruciferous vegetables that contain glucosinolates are:


As indicated by their name, phytoestrogens mimic the action of estrogen in the body, which can be beneficial for some people experiencing menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and discomfort. However, some studies indicate that they can disrupt hormonal function. Phytoestrogens impact the body in different ways, so it is necessary to be aware of the intake of foods rich in this compound.

On the other hand, this phytonutrient it can also reduce the risk of developing cancer, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

Phytoestrogen-rich foods are:

Other benefits

You phytonutrients are a variety of compounds present in plants, so they can offer many different benefits. Among the other positive points of consuming foods rich in these compounds are:

  • Bioactive functions that promote health;
  • Presence of antibacterial and antiviral agents;

Try adding them to your diet to take advantage of their beneficial properties!

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