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Fill up on plant foods to get your daily dose of phytonutrients.
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A diet rich in phytonutrients, also called phytochemicals, may help lower your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer and diabetes, according to Stanford Medicine. These beneficial chemicals are mainly found in plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Filling your plate half full with a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables and splitting the other half of your plate between a protein source and grains can help you get enough phytonutrients, according to the Produce for Better Health Foundation.
Fruits and Vegetables
Adults who follow the dietary guidelines on fruit and vegetable intake have higher intakes of phytonutrients than those who don't, according to a study published in February 2012 in the "Journal of the Academy of Dietetics." Phytonutrient-rich fruit choices include grapes, apples, watermelons, persimmons, papaya, oranges, peaches, apricots, guava, pink grapefruit, plums, berries and cantaloupe. Vegetables high in phytonutrients include red onions, red radishes, red potatoes, artichokes, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, winter squash, pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, celery and turnips.
A phytonutrient-rich meal plan should include at least some plant-based protein, such as nuts, seeds and legumes, as animal-based protein isn't a good source of phytonutrients. Beans, such as soybeans, are a good choice, as are lentils and peanuts or other nuts. Although an animal-based food, eggs also provide some phytonutrients in the form of zeaxanthin, which helps keep your eyes healthy.
Whole grains contain more nutrients, including phytonutrients, than refined grains. The main phytochemicals in whole grains, lignans and phytosterols, are mainly found in the germ and bran of the grain, which are removed during the refining process. Include grains such as oatmeal, wild or brown rice, whole-wheat, barley, popcorn, flaxseed, amaranth, quinoa, spelt and millet in each meal.
Beverages made from plants can also help you increase your phytonutrient intake. Red wine, tea and 100-percent fruit juices, including grape juice and cranberry juice, are healthy choices. They provide flavonoids, which act as antioxidants and may improve your heart health. Teas that are less processed, such as white or green tea, are higher in flavonoids than the more processed black tea.