Why Phytonutrients May Hold KEY to Preventing Disease


The latest research on Phytonutrients in food has become “all the rage” in nutrition and health. 

Beverly Clevidence, PhD, research leader for the USDA-funded Food Components and Health Laboratory says: “I don’t think there’s been this much excitement since vitamins and minerals were discovered more than 100 years ago”! 

But what are they, where can we find them, and how do they benefit our well-being?

These are all excellent questions, and in this article I will go over the basics about phytochemicals, explain how they inhibit disease from forming, and provide a bunch of foods that are plentiful in them!

A Relatively New Discovery

Phytochemicals are quasi-nutrients found in plant foods that convey pertinent information to the body.  Recent studies have found that they interact with us at the most basic levels and bind themselves to receptor sites of our cells triggering our genes to express specific patterns.

OK, that was a mouthful– but the important thing to understand is that Phytochemicals are being shown to inhibit the growth if certain chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

For example: sulforaphane, a phytonutrient found in veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and bok choy helps boost our bodies’ detoxification enzymes, which aids in clearing out potentially carcinogenic substances.

This is certainly remarkable, and worth implementing in your life.  Here are a few more shining examples of phytonutrients and the foods you can find them:

Lycopene, found in tomatoes, that helps fight heart disease and a variety of cancers.

• The phenols in strawberries protect against cancer and autoimmune diseases and help reverse nerve-cell aging!

Carrots, kale and peanuts are not just plant tissues embedded with vitamins and minerals but are also comprised of tens of thousands of phytochemicals.

• The phenols in black and red berries, grapes and eggplant discourage the development of cancer by blocking the conversion of pre-cancerous cells into carcinogens.

Saponins, found in foods like alfalfa and legumes inhibit the growth of cancer by interfering with their DNA.

Flavanoids, found in citrus fruits, red wine and dark chocolate inhibit a chemical that can lead to breast and uterine cancer.

The main point: plant foods are even BETTER for our health than we already thought!  So how do you get more of these essential nutrients in our diet?  Here’s a simple guide:

FOOD is the Best Source, and COLORFUL Ones Even Better!

Eating a diet steeped in fruits, vegetables and legumes is the best way to ensure your body is getting a healthy supply of phytonutrients.  Many manufacturers are producing supplements that promise adequate amounts of these incredible nutrients, but most researchers agree that whole foods provide the best source.

“There seems to be a synergistic effect between the chemicals in food” says Mark Farnham PhD of the USDA in Charleston, SC.

Additionally, Phytochemicals often give food its distinguishing color and eating fruits and vegetables with a broad spectrum of tints has never been more important!

“If on a daily basis you incorporate at least seven different colors, you are much more likely to get a wide variety of these nutrients that are healing, that prevent degenerative disease, and that will go to work on every tissue, organ and cell of the body” says nutritionist Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD and co-author of The Fat Flush Plan.

So don’t be afraid to go exotic with your color choices– unusually hued foods add intrigue and health to your plate!

Here are some additional information about the most beneficial Phytonutrients, and where to

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find them:

Phyto            Found in                                 Beneficial for

Capsaican      Cayenne and red peppers    Reducing inflammation

Catechins       Green and Black Tea            Inhibiting carcinogens

Genistein       Tofu, soymilk, soybeans        Inhibits tumor growth

Lignans          Seeds (flaxseed), grains        Inhibiting breast/ovarian cancer

Polyphenols   Buckwheat, wheat germ       Restores lagging immune system

Zeaxanthin     Kale, Collard Greens             Enhance immune function

So start looking at the colors of the food you eat, and educate yourself on how to get more phytonutrients in your diet.  This might very well be one of the most astounding discoveries to happen in nutrition theory in a long time, and it’s best to be ahead of the curve!

I hope this article was helpful, and please feel free to email me with any questions. 

Top photo by Marco Braun

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12 Responses to “Why Phytonutrients May Hold KEY to Preventing Disease”

  1. Peter says:

    Interesting article. Looking over your suggestions, I’m not actually doing too bad. There are a few suggestions though I will look into. I got some Gingko Biloba btw and am happy with it so far.

  2. bluskygirl says:

    Nice post! I try really hard to vary all the different fruits and vegetables I eat, especially when it comes to their color. Isn’t there a saying about the more colorful your plate, the better it is for you? :)

  3. Jason says:

    I like your healthy eating articles… they’re quite informative.

    I haven’t actually gotten around to bringing my diet back to healthy… I’ve let it slip for a while now. Speaking of which, I’m hungry… think I’ll have a granola bar.

  4. Brad Baggett says:

    Another great post right on about the amazing health benefits what we eat can bring to us. I have done an article in the past about phytonutrients and the amazing benefits that they give us. I really think that this is the tip of the iceberg! Keep the great information coming.

    Check out my article to see my take on 19 special fruits and their amazing phytonutrients.


  5. Todd says:

    Guys, GREAT comments, and thank you as always!

  6. kathylynn says:

    I totally agree with this article. We need to be paying more attention to what we put in our bodies. I use a juicer and can tell a huge difference in how I feel. Thanks Todd!

  7. Todd says:

    Thanks for the great comment Kathylynn–

    I am a BIG FAN of juicing and this is a great way to get a high concentration of good stuff into your body in one shot!!


  8. Jenny says:

    Rainbow eating for health! Not only good for you it makes your food look beautiful (plus it always makes me smile as I prepare meals to think of rainbows). :)

  9. Todd says:

    Rainbow eating– love that Jenny!

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  12. Jason says:

    I think the answer to all our health problems can be traced to what we eat.

    Has anyone done any research on how appleseeds are said to contain b17 and can fight cancer?


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