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Author:Britt Maughan R.D.
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Phytonutrients or ‘’plant chemicals”, are a variety of compounds produced by plants such as fruits, veggies, and grains, that help them stay protected as they grow. There are thousands of phytonutrients that have been identified, and only a handful of them have been studied closely. Phytonutrients have numerous benefits for overall health and well-being, here are just a few: 

Strengthens immune system
Supports cardiovascular health
Supports eye, skin, and bone health
Detoxifies carcinogens
Repairs DNA damage from toxins

There are many different compounds that are considered phytonutrients, with six main categories including: carotenoids, flavonoids, glucosinolates, ellagic acid, phytoestrogens, and resveratrol. 

A diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables should be able to provide plenty of phytonutrients, however, the processing and cooking of our produce often destroys and lessens their phytonutrient properties. As with vitamins and minerals, we suggest that you eat a balanced diet rich in organic fruits and vegetables (and maybe focus on eating raw to get the most out of your produce) and look to quality supplements to increase your intake. 

Many of our everyday supplements contain rich sources of phytonutrients through daily capsules, mixes or teas. Read below for a detailed overview of a few common phytonutrients, their benefits, and examples of supplements we carry that feature them.

Beta-Carotene: This phytonutrient is a carotenoid that gives fruits and vegetables their bright red, yellow, and orange color. Foods that are high in beta carotene include spirulina, carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and kale. It acts as a precursor for vitamin A, which is an essential vitamin that is needed for skin and mucous membranes, a healthy immune system, and vision. Beta-carotene has antioxidant properties that help protect cells from damage – this makes it helpful in fighting cancer and heart disease. It is also used to help treat a variety of diseases and ailments from depression and epilepsy to arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. 

For the athlete, beta carotene serves as a great addition to your daily nutrient intake. It can help strengthen the immune system to help you perform at your best, and help with recovery after workouts and races. Examples of products that feature beta carotene include Hammer Nutrition’s Phytomax, Vital Protein’s Spirulina, CARBOPRO’s Green Balance, and Dragon Herbs Tonic Alchemy. 

Chlorophyll: Chlorophyll is responsible for the green color of plants. It’s a pigment that absorbs light and helps plants make food. Some great sources include spinach, spirulina, wheatgrass, and lettuce. Chlorophyll helps to increase red blood cell count, may help lower your cancer risk, manage arthritis, and fight free radicals (as it contains antioxidants). Some of the products we carry that include chlorophyll include Hammer Nutrition’s Phytomax, CARBOPRO Green Balance, Vital Proteins Spirulina, and Dragon Herbs Tonic Alchemy. 

Flavonoids: Flavonoids are found in many fruits and vegetables, as well as flowers, tea and wine. They have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as anti-mutagenic and anti-carcinogenic properties.  There are many subgroups of flavonoids including: flavones (which can be found in foods such as celery, parsley, red peppers, chamomile, mint, and ginko biloba), flavanones (which are present in all citrus fruits), isoflavonoids (found in soybeans and other legumes), anthocyanins (found in berries and grapes) chalcones (founds in tomatoes, pears, strawberries, and certain wheat products), and quercetin (see more on this below). Products that contain flavonoids include CARBOPRO Green Balance, Performance Tea Energy, Performance Tea Balance, and Performance Tea Focus, Dragon Herbs Super Adaptogen, and Dragon Herbs Tonic Alchemy.

Lycopene: This carotenoid is responsible for the bright red pigment in tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables (red carrots, watermelons, and papayas, to name a few). Similar to beta-carotene, Lycopene has antioxidant properties (however, it does not act as a precursor for vitamin A). Lycopene has been shown to have a positive impact on heart health, blood pressure, prostate health, osteoporosis, and skin health.  Products that contain lycopene include: Performance Tea Balance, Dragon Herbs Super Adaptogen, and Dragon Herbs Tonic Alchemy.

Quercetin: This flavonoid is a plant pigment found in many foods including leafy vegetables, broccoli, red onions, peppers, apples, grapes, black and green tea, and red wine. In addition to acting as an antioxidant, benefits include anti-inflammation, anti-allergy, and asthma relief. It also has a positive impact on cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Products that include high levels of quercetin include: Performance Tea Energy, Performance Tea Balance, Performance Tea Focus, Dragon Herbs Tonic Alchemy, CARBOPRO Green Balance, and Dragon Herbs Super Adaptogen. 

Bottom Line:
Phytonutrients are powerful plant chemicals that have numerous benefits that support overall health and wellness. A diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, grains, legumes and teas (and even some red wine!), you can help your body fight of disease and support your body’s functions. For athletes, phytonutrients can play a key role in helping boost immunity and help with overall performance and recovery. 

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