Medical Definition of Phytonutrient

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Phytonutrients: The active health-protecting

Currently, the terms "phytonutrient" and "phytochemical" are being used interchangeably to describe those plant compounds which are thought to have health-protecting qualities.

The antioxidant, immune boosting and other health promoting properties of active compounds in plants are being investigated. Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, tree nuts and teas are sources of phytonutrients. Some of the common classes of phytonutrients include: Carotenoids, Flavonoids (Polyphenols), including Isoflavones (Phytoestrogens), Inositol Phosphates (Phytates), Lignans (Phytoestrogens), Isothiocyanates and Indoles, Phenols and Cyclic Compounds, Saponins, Sulfides and Thiols, and Terpenes.

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Reviewed on 10/30/2018

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