Scientists have identified thousands of plant compounds that have specific health benefits to humans—and there are many yet to be discovered. These powerful compounds are called phytonutrients and are found in colorful fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, tea, whole grains, and many spices. I like to call them “fighto-nutrients” because they fight for our good health. Plants produce these chemical compounds to protect themselves from harm, and when we eat them, we also benefit from this protection.
Phytonutrients have numerous health-protective and disease-preventive properties. They’re not essential nutrients, meaning they’re not required by the human body to sustain life, but they provide us with lots amazing, life-enhancing benefits.
Phytonutrients work in the body in many different ways. They can act as antioxidants, imitate hormones, stimulate enzymes, enhance immunity, improve inter-cellular communication, stop the DNA replication of cancer cells, and detoxify carcinogens, among many other things.
It’s believed that phytonutrients work in harmony with the vitamins, minerals, and fiber in whole foods to promote a symphony of good health. So to get the greatest benefit from phytonutrients, its best to consume a variety of whole, plant-based foods every day, especially colorful vegetables and fruits.