There’s quite a bit of buzz around phytochemicals in food. Phytochemicals, also known as phytonutrients, are naturally occurring chemicals found in plants (hence the phyto-).
They are the compounds that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant variety of colors, smells, and tastes. With the rainbow of vegetables, you see regularly, you can imagine how many types of phytochemicals there are!
There are literally thousands of phytochemicals out there. Scientists are busy studying their potential benefits. Since you aren’t a plant, the only way to reap the benefits of phytochemicals is to eat a diet full of a variety of types of fruits and vegetables.
There are 6 phytochemicals scientists have spent the most effort researching:
1. BETA CAROTENE is found in orange-colored and dark green leafy vegetables. Beta-carotene is critical for eye health and also plays a key role in maintaining a healthy and strong immune system.
2. LYCOPENE is the red pigment found in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon, raspberries, and strawberries. It’s a powerful antioxidant and is linked to reduced prostate cancer risk. Lycopene is better absorbed after it’s been cooked, such as in tomato sauce.
3. LUTEIN is found in green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach, as well as in cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussel sprouts and broccoli. Like beta-carotene, lutein is critical for eye health and may help prevent macular degeneration.