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Plant Your Plate With Phytonutrients-Eat the Rainbow

Updated on April 30, 2013

Phytonutrients or phytochemicals are plant-based nutrients that may have positive health benefits. “Phyto” refers to the Greek word for plant so phytonutrients means plant nutrient. Scientific studies have suggested the increased health benefits of phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are neither vitamin nor mineral but are just as essential for life.

Studies suggest that phytonutrients found in many foods may play an important role in health and longevity. Phytonutrients help protect you from most conditions associated with aging such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, certain types of cancer, osteoporosis...and even wrinkles.

Phytonutrients are compounds that help protect plants from viruses, UV rays, bacteria, fungi, insects, and other threats; the way these compounds protect plants is also similar to the way these compounds help protect us from diseases. Phytonutrients help prevent diseases in many different ways: protect cells, detoxify, halt tumor cell growth, lower blood cholesterol levels, help prevent hormone-driven cancers, act as a antibacterial agent, and aid in eyesight.

How Much? How Often?

The richest sources of phytonutrients are fruits and vegetables. It is recommend eating five to nine servings a day. Frequently eating produce throughout the day is better than all at once. This helps keep levels of phytochemicals at effective levels.

  • Five servings for children.
  • Seven servings for women.
  • Nine servings for men (and teens and woman with high calorie intakes).


How To Plant Your Plate

  • Daily recommended servings: Children, 2 servings of fruit a day and 3 servings of vegetables. Women, 3 servings fruit and 4 servings vegetables. Men, 4 servings fruit and 5 servings vegetables.
  • Place on your plate whole grain breads, cereals, nuts, seeds.
  • Include different colors of food daily on your plant.
  • Use herbs, spices, garlic, nuts, and seeds.


Some seasonings for your food rank high in antioxidant power. Eight of the top foods in antioxidant power are seasonings: cloves, oregano (leaf-dried), ginger, cinnamon (ground), turmeric powder, basil leaf, mustard seed (yellow, ground), curry powder, paprika, and chili powder. Also in the top antioxidant foods are three nuts: walnuts, pecans, and pistachios.


Carotenoids act as antioxidants in your body and are found in yellow, red, and orange fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids reduce the harmful damage done by free radicals that damage tissues throughout your body. Provides a source of vitimain A. Carotenoids may prevent damage to cells thereby increasing the immune system, reduce the risk of cancer, and protect against heart disease.



Is lycopene a carotenoid that acts as an antioxidant and has been linked to a lower risk of prostate cancer.

  • Pink grapefruit or juice
  • Tomatoes (cooked or raw)
  • Watermelon
  • Cherries


Anthocyanins are one class of flavonoid compound and are powerful antioxidants which help rid the body of free radicals.
They might reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, and coronary heart disease. They are used to treat bladder infections and urinary tract infections.

  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries (or sauce)
  • Eggplant (cooked)
  • Orange juice
  • Grapes
  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Plums
  • Prunes
  • Red Apple
  • Red Cabbage (cooked)
  • Red Pear
  • Red Wine
  • Strawberries


Alph- and beta-carotene, carotenoids, provides a source of vitamin A, keeps your immune system working and is needed for eye health.

  • Carrots (cooked, raw, or juice)
  • Acorn
  • Apricot
  • Cantaloupe
  • Mango
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet Potato
  • Winter Squash


Beta-cryptothaxin a carotenoid.

  • Nectarine
  • Orange
  • Orange juice
  • Papaya
  • Peach
  • Peach nectar
  • Pinapple
  • Tangerine (and juice)
  • Yellow grapefruit (and juice)


Green: Sulforaphane have been shown to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and can be used to prevent and treat arthritis. Isothiocyanate might have anti-cancer properties. Indoles may prevent cancer and acts as a antioxidant.

  • Broccoli (cooked)
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage (raw or cooked)
  • Cauliflower (cooked)
  • Kale (cooked)
  • Radishes
  • Swiss chard


Allicin may be able to help reduce a colds duration, boost immunity, and reduce the risk of strokes.

  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Celery
  • Chives
  • Dates
  • Endive (raw)
  • Garlic
  • Leeks (cooked)
  • Mushrooms (cooked)
  • Onion

Are you plannng to make your meals more colorful?

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Lutein, zeaxanthin, folate: may aid in reducing the chance cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

  • Avocado
  • Collard greens (cooked)
  • Corn
  • Cucumber
  • Egg yolks
  • Green beans (cooked)
  • Green bell peppers
  • Honeydew
  • Kiwi
  • Mustard greens (cooked)
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach (raw and cooked)
  • Turnip greens (cooked)
  • Yellow bell peppers
  • Zucchini with skin (cooked)

Salad:  baby greens,  bell peppers,  radish, carrots
Salad: baby greens, bell peppers, radish, carrots | Source

Colorful Meals

Example of colorful meals.

  • Breakfast: hard-boiled egg, grapes, cheese
  • Morning snack: apple with cheese stick
  • For lunch have a large salad with multicolored vegetables and nuts, with dressing made from olive oil and herbs, a serving of fruit, and pita bread.
  • Afternoon snack: celery and peanut butter
  • Dinner: oven roasted tomatoes with basil and mozzarella cheese, a serving of fruit, fish (tuna or salmon), roll/bread
  • Bedtime snack: yogurt with apricots(1/4)


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