Derived from the Greek word “phyto,” meaning “plant,” phytonutrients is a general term which encompasses a wide range of compounds found in consumable plants. There are thousands of known phytonutrients, and undoubtedly countless more to be discovered.
Phytonutrients are found in abundance in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices, tea leaves, coffee beans and a wide range of other plants. Beneficial properties such as anti-inflammation, cancer prevention, vision enhancement, circulatory system health, and much more, have been documented in countless research studies.
Several common phytonutrients, such as a whole range of flavonoids and carotenoids, act as antioxidants in the body, with several positive health effects. Others such as lycopene and lutein, have been linked to the prevention of certain forms of cancer. Certain phytonutrients have also shown great promise in helping to manage diabetes.
While many phytonutrients have been isolated and put into supplemental form, little evidence exists that taking supplements is an effective substitute for the complex whole foods that these phytonutrients come from.
Resources and Further Reading
For an accessible list of some common phytonutrients and their health benefits: https://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/what-are-phytochemicals
For an in-depth look at phytonutrients and their potential role in managing diabetes, a 2013 study originally published in Elsevier provides a very good resource:
A 2017 study documents some of the benefits of eating diets based on whole plant-foods, their wide range of phytonutrients, and specifically their potential role in the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes:
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