Reports from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), show that 8 out of 10 Americans are not getting enough phytonutrients in their diet.

Why does this matter?

Because phytonutrients are quickly becoming some of the most recommended nutrients for health and longevity

There is a growing body of evidence to support the theory that phytonutrients can offer significant health benefits such as reduced blood pressure, decreased inflammation, immune system support, cholesterol maintenance, bone health, tumor reduction, and cancer prevention.

And in some cases it’s even been shown that lower intake levels can actually place you at a higher risk for chronic diseases, such as prostate cancer, or breast cancer.

What are phytonutrients?

These are nutrients found in plants (such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and nuts) that function as the plant’s built-in defense system. Over time, these compounds have developed to protect the plant from the various external threats of its surrounding environment. When we consume the plants that contain these phytonutrients, our bodies can absorb and benefit from them as well.

What should your daily intake be?

These nutrients are not “essential” for life, so no federal dietary guidelines for intake have been established, but the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association both recommend that you consume a wide variety of these phytonutrient sources every day. Federal guidelines do recommend that adults get somewhere between 2 – 3 cups of vegetables and 1 1/2 – 2 cups of fruit per day. A 2017 report from the CDC shows that only 1 in 10 Americans meet that goal, which means that 90% of us aren’t even getting the bare minimum. 

What can you do to get more phytonutrients in your diet?

The best sources of phytonutrients are fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts and teas. Ideally, consuming 10 servings per day is a good target to aim for. High-quality supplements can be another great way to ensure you reach your phytonutrient intake, but the manufacturing techniques can vary, so make sure to read up on the nutrient extraction processes used to make the supplement.

If layers of the cell wall are too thick to break down, or the phytonutrient content is too low to be recognized, the nutrient passes through the digestion process without being absorbed. In these cases, phytonutrients may require specialized extraction methods to facilitate bioavailability. These nutrient extracts can be very beneficial, but it’s important to make sure that the extraction process itself doesn’t harm or diminish the nutrient quality (for example: phyto-thermal extraction is a high quality method that ensures nutrient potency without the use of harsh chemicals or solvents).

Remember, each plant contains different quantities & types of phytonutrients, and the compounds typically vary according to the plant’s pigment, so the key is to make sure your phytonutrient sources are varied, and colorful.

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