What Are Phytonutrients?
A large percentage of people don't get enough nutrients from their diet. In fact, micronutrient deficiencies affect an estimated 2 billion people worldwide . These deficiencies contribute to infections, illnesses, and even death.
By adding phytonutrients to your diet, you could enhance your immunity.
What are phytonutrients exactly, and what benefits can you experience by adding them to your diet?
In this article, we'll review different phytonutrients and phytonutrient-rich foods. We also detail why grass-fed whey from Ireland is loaded with phytonutrients and the "how" for a more practical application versus another high-level blog on phytonutrients that dances around useful information.
What Are Phytonutrients?
First, let's answer the question that's likely on your mind: what are phytonutrients?
Phytonutrients or Phytochemicals are the natural chemicals plants produce and use to stay healthy. For example, a plant might use phytonutrients to shield itself from UV ray radiation.
Picture a rainbow of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. Other phytonutrients include nuts, tea, whole grains, and legumes. Many so-called "superfoods" contain phytochemicals that give them their nutritious and attractive look.
Phytonutrients give foods their distinct smells and colors.
Most phytonutrients are colorful, but many exist without bright vibrancy. White foods like olive oil, onions, and garlic are high in phytonutrients as an example.
As part of each plant's immune system, phytonutrients protect plant life and help plants mount a defense against bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites.
It's thought that there are tens of thousands of phytochemicals. The most popular phytochemicals include flavonoids, carotenoids, and phenolic acids.
Each phytonutrient offers its own list of benefits. For example, some include anti-inflammatory agents. Others are neuroprotective or support your immune system.
Some phytochemicals can play a role in preventing and even treating certain diseases. About 815 million people suffer from chronic undernourishment . Some people don't even realize their bodies are lacking the essential nutrients. We need these nutrients to live healthy, long lives.
Even people who are on a lifestyle diet lack certain nutrients. These can include people following vegan, vegetarian, and ketogenic diets.
Phytonutrients do have an impact on human health. They're not considered essential nutrients and thus often are overlooked on a grocery list. Phytonutrients are set apart from vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients (fats, carbs, proteins). It's not typical that phytonutrients in a micro-gram (mcg) quantity are listed on a Nutrition Facts Panel.
Learn More Here: What is Keto?
Learn More Here: Superfoods Explained
Types of Phytonutrients
Phytonutrients are categorized by class. Each class of phytonutrients contain groups. Each phytonutrient group can contain several hundred phytonutrients.
What are the Phytonutrient Classes?
- A few common phytonutrient groups include:
- Hydroxycinnamic acids
Does Whey Protein Contain Phytonutrients?
Yes, Grass-fed whey protein contains hundreds of phytochemicals. The composition of the whey is heavily based on the composition of the grasslands.
Irish grass-fed milk is loaded with several phytonutrient classes and many other phytochemicals due to the abundance of organic compounds found in the pasture.
The benefits of consuming Irish Grass-Fed Whey include healthy phytonutrient exposure; the classes abundant within the whey include, Flavonoids, Lignans, Carotenoids, and Tocopherols.
The Best Whey Comes From Ireland -
If you are curious about the connection between Ireland and the phytochemicals found in AGN Roots Grass-Fed Whey, here is a list of organic compounds endemic to the Island that serves as the source of these amazing micro-nutrients.
- Trifolium Repens (White & Red Clover)
- Hybrid & Italian Rye grass
- Perrenial Rye Grass
- Bird's-foot Trefoil
Flavonoids in Irish Grass-Fed Whey Protein
- Biochanin A
Formononetin and Biochanin fall within the phytochemical flavonoid class and are abundant within Red Clover. Red clover is particularly active throughout Ireland from June to October as a native perennial that thrives in environments with well-drained, moist soils. These flavonoids provide many benefits, including:
Why is the Clover so Critical for Organic Grass-Fed Dairy?
The above image is that of the Trifolium Repens, red & white clovers. The red clover helps make Ireland grass-fed whey the cleanest in the world due to its ability to thrive year-round (resilient to cold temperatures) and continuously provide the surrounding soils with nitrogen.
Nitrogen is important for plants to produce amino acids and chlorophyll. Typical plants like green grasses draw nitrogen from the soil; with only withdrawals and no deposits, the soil would ultimately deplete and lose its ability to support the grass growth.
If the clover weren't abundant in Ireland, farmers would constantly need to rebalance the soil via chemical intervention. In this case, clover has huge benefits to the sustainability and biodiversity of the lush grasslands. With the help of bacteria, clover pulls nitrogen from the air and places it back into the roots and, therefore, the surrounding soil.
Lignans in Irish Grass-Fed Whey Protein
Secoisolariciresinol and Matairesinol are both powerful antioxidants that stem from a small yellow pea-flowered perennial wildflower known as Bird's-foot Trefoil. Native to Wicklow, Cork, & Wexford, these wildflowers exist all over Ireland's southeastern coastal grasslands.
Carotenoids in Irish Grass-Fed Whey Protein
Carotenoids are what provide the amazing and often bright colors of our fruits and vegetables. Several hundred variations of carotenoids exist, with the most famous associations being with lycopene (tomatoes) and beta carotene (carrots, pumpkins, tangerines).
The benefits of consuming carotenoids include eye health, anti-inflammation, and immune support (vitamin A conversion). In terms of Irish grass-fed whey, beta-carotene gives the creamy yellowish hue of the finished product.
Learn More Here: Beta Carotene in Grass-Fed Whey
Tocopherol in Irish Grass-Fed Whey Protein
Tocopherols (a.k.a. naturally occurring vitamin E) levels germane to Irish grass-fed dairy and Irish whey represent a massive distinguishing factor when comparing whey protein by origin. Tocopherols exist throughout Irelands grasslands in several native plants and provide incredible antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits to Irish grass-fed dairy consumers (milk, butter, whey). Birds-foot trefoil is chock-full with tocopherols.
What is Resveratrol?
You may have heard about resveratrol if you're a fan of red wine, since it's in grape skin. You can also find resveratrol in:
- Grape juice
The resveratrol level depends on how long the grape skins remain during fermentation. Wineries remove grape skins early in the process to create rosé and white wines, though. As a result, these wines contain lower levels of resveratrol.
Research indicates that resveratrol could :
- Slow cognitive decline
- Offer anti-inflammatory benefits
- Prevent cardiovascular disease
- Prevent cancer development
- Treat and prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's
- Reduce oxidative stress
- Treat impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes
Scientists are still researching the potential phytonutrient benefits resveratrol can offer.
What are Lignans?
Lignans are a phytonutrient that can mimic the effects of estrogen. Also referred to as phytoestrogen, it's critical to point out there is no scientific data that suggests phytoestrogens negatively impact healthy men in terms of hormones, however mixed data can be found on the topic of soy, especially referring to supplements. Popular foods that contain Lignans include:
- Sesame seeds
- Poppy seeds
- Oat bran
- Flax seeds
Since they're able to mimic estrogen, Lignans could help prevent hormone-related cancers. They've shown positive results in helping with endometrial and ovarian cancers. There's some debate about their ability to help with breast cancer, though.
Do Phytoestrogens Impact Fertility in Men?
Phytoestrogens such as Isoflavones and Lignans have not been shown to reduce men's fertility with definitive scientific results. Although there have been studies on animals that suggest high consumption of soy, for example (popular phytoestrogen) may adversely affect men's fertility, this inverse relationship hasn't been shown to apply to humans (omnivores) in the same way it does to some animals (carnivores) .
When it comes to soy, the relationship between consumption and sperm concentration is well studied and shows that among overweight or obese men, sperm count is negatively impacted. As far as sperm motility, volumes, or morphology, there is no known relationship.
What is Curcumin?
Have you ever struggled to clean turmeric's yellow stain off a countertop of a plate? The phytonutrient curcumin gives turmeric its distinct hue. Curcumin is the reason many people turn to turmeric for its medicinal properties.
Curcumin contains anti-inflammatory properties. It's also a powerful antioxidant. Some people take phytonutrient supplements, including curcumin, to experience these benefits.
The body has a difficult time absorbing curcumin into the bloodstream, though. You can consume curcumin with black pepper, which could help with absorption.
Inflammation can cause cancer, Alzheimer's, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome. Reducing chronic inflammation could help people with these conditions.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a growth hormone found in the brain. Depression, Alzheimer's, and other brain disorders develop when BDNF levels drop. Curcumin could help increase BDNF brain levels to fight these conditions.
As a result, curcumin might help reverse or delay brain disease.
Curcumin also contains antibacterial effects. It might reduce blood sugars in type 2 diabetes as well. Some studies show it can reduce osteoporosis risk.
What are Flavonoids?
Many people who ask "what are phytonutrients" end up looking at flavonoids. Flavonoids are a very diverse group of phytonutrients. They're in many different foods, including:
- Red wine
A 25-year study shows flavonoid consumption could help with longevity . It might help reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease development.
What is Ellagic Acid?
Also known as tannin, ellagic acid is in walnuts, pomegranates, and grapes. It's also available in berries, including cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries.
Ellagic acid offers anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant benefits. It could also reduce arterial plaque and blood pressure levels.
Ellagic acid can improve glucose metabolism. This might help patients with type 2 diabetes as well.
What are Carotenoids?
Carotenoids create the orange, yellow, and red pigments for many plants. Many "all-natural" beverages may rely on beta-carotene to produce the desired color; this contrasts with the typical artificial colorants like "red-5".
A few common carotenoids include:
Each of these phytonutrients benefits plants and humans in different ways.
A few different carotenoids include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Bell peppers
In order for your body to absorb carotenoids, you should consume them with fat.
Carotenoids play a part in eye health and antioxidant activity. Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin become vitamin A.
Vitamin A plays a part in immunity and anti-aging.
Meanwhile, zeaxanthin and lutein are in your retina. These phytonutrients could reduce your risk of macular degeneration.
Carotenoids could also reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
What are the Benefits of Phytonutrients?
We've answered the question "what are phytonutrients?" Let's discuss how consuming phytonutrients benefits the body.
The macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals you consume already help your body function. Phytonutrients and prebiotic foods could help you maintain your health. You could strengthen your immune system to help your body fight illnesses as well.
Phytonutrients support your body's immune system to prevent specific diseases.
They provide pharmacological benefits, including :
- CNS stimulant
- Protection from UVB-induced carcinogenesis
Here are a few ways phytonutrients supplements and foods can benefit your body.
Learn More Here: Prebiotic Foods
Free radicals are molecules that can damage your body's cells. They could cause illness or lead to accelerated aging. Toxins in your environment can create these unstable molecules.
Normal metabolic processes can create free radicals as well. When left to their own devices, free radicals can damage your DNA.
Oxidative damage is a precursor to cancer.
Antioxidants can fight free radicals. Some phytonutrients provide antioxidants to help prevent free radical damage.
Phytonutrients could help prevent diseases from developing as well. Using phytonutrient supplements could provide a less expensive option than traditional treatments. They might offer fewer side effects than traditional therapies as well.
Unfortunately, research is still in its early stages. Scientists are still using lab studies to determine how phytonutrients can help.
Some studies show that phytonutrients could help fight cancer. These phytonutrients include:
- Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) found in green tea
- Quercetin found in capers
- Phloretin found in pears
Some phytonutrients, such as flavonoids, could help fight heart disease.
Some phytochemicals contain neuroprotective properties . These properties could help benefit patients who have Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease.
The phytonutrients that might offer neuroprotection include:
Scientists are still determining their full effect.
Phytonutrients like epicatechin, curcumin, allicin, resveratrol, and quercetin could offer anti-aging benefits.
Antioxidants are able to fight off free radicals, which can cause wrinkles. Environmental factors, such as UV rays from the sun and pollution, could damage your cells as well.
Your body produces toxic chemical reactions that could weaken the molecules in cells. When your cells lose an electron, they become free radicals.
Free radicals make up for lost electrons by stealing electrons from other molecules. As a result, they damage your cells, which can cause health problems.
Free radicals found in blood vessels can change the structure of LDL cholesterol. As a result, you could develop clogged arteries and heart problems.
Sunlight could cause free radicals in your eyes, leading to cataracts.
When free radicals affect your skin, they cause wrinkles or increase the risk of skin cancer.
Eating phytonutrient foods that are rich in antioxidants could fight these free radicals. They could provide anti-aging benefits as a result.
Inflammation is the body's immediate reaction to illness, disease, or intruders.
When an intruder damages your cells, your body triggers your immune system. It releases antibodies and increases blood flow to the damaged area in your body.
Once your body is done fighting the intruder, inflammation should fade over time. Some people experience chronic inflammation, though. With chronic inflammation, you might experience rashes, fatigue, pain, and a fever.
These symptoms can persist over time, leaving your body vulnerable to serious problems.
Chronic inflammation causes heart disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 2 diabetes.
Some phytonutrients are capable of reducing inflammation levels. Grass-fed whey is anti-inflammatory as well. By easing inflammation, these phytonutrients could help you avoid a serious condition.
Consuming phytonutrients benefits your immunity, too.
A strong immune system can reduce the risk of viruses and bad bacteria spreading in the body. Some phytonutrients offer antimicrobial agents as well.
An overactive immune system can cause autoimmune diseases. An underactive immune system can leave you vulnerable to infections and cancer. Consuming phytonutrients could help your body find the perfect balance between the two.
Phytonutrients play a role in preventing certain skin cancers, too.
According to this review, phytonutrients' anti-carcinogenic effects are beneficial to fighting cancer.
Phytonutrients are also available, cost-effective, and well-tolerated in comparison to other treatment options
How to Add Phytonutrients to Your Diet?
It's not enough to understand what are phytonutrients or recognize the benefits. There are a few things you need to know before adding phytonutrients to your diet, too.
First, remember that phytonutrients give foods their distinct colors. Each phytonutrient provides its own list of benefits. If you want to experience phytonutrient benefits, try to "eat the rainbow."
Eating foods in different colors can help you experience a list of benefits. For example, consider eating red apples, purple grapes, and green kiwi.
Don't forget to add spices and edible flowers to your diet, too. For example, flavor your favorite dishes with oregano, thyme, and sage. Add a dash of turmeric powder for curcumin, too.
Do you have a picky eater on your hands? Try mixing a serving of vegetables in your favorite dishes. For example, you can mix zucchini noodles into a huge pot of pasta.
Otherwise, become more creative when creating meals.
Phytonutrient Side Effects
It's possible to eat too much of a single food. It's important to maintain a balanced diet to avoid a deficiency.
Do you have a preexisting condition? You might want to consider the phytonutrients you choose.
For example, someone who has thyroid disease might want to avoid foods with goitrogen.
Goitrogen has an anti-thyroid effect.
Make sure to speak with your doctor or a dietitian before making major changes to your diet.
What Are Phytonutrients? Healthier Living, Straight From Mother Earth
To recap, what are phytonutrients? Phytonutrients are chemicals that can offer a range of benefits to your health. By adding phytonutrients to your diet, you could live happier and healthier!
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