By Kristen Hicks-Roof, Ph.D., RDN, LDN; Marissa Schwam, B.S.
Phytochemicals are naturally occurring plant chemicals that help give plants their color, flavor, and odor. (AICR) Phytochemicals are found in whole foods such as fruits and vegetables. Supplements are good for additional vitamin supplementation, but they do not provide as many health benefits as food itself. These phytochemicals have been shown to provide our bodies with numerous benefits such as helping us fight off colds, improving skin health, and building strong bones. Below are some red, white, and blue sources of these phytochemicals– in honor of the 4th of July.
- Tomatoes, red grapes, apples, cranberries, red peppers, watermelon, strawberries, and raspberries. Fresh fruit is a refreshing summer snack. Get your family together and take a trip strawberry or cherry picking. These fruits and vegetables have the phytochemicals “lycopene” and “anthocyanin.” Did you know… anthocyanins have been shown to help improve vision and neurological health? Get some of these so you can see the fireworks better this 4th of July!
- Some white vegetables that also have anthocyanins are onions, mushrooms, garlic, and cauliflower. Did you know that garlic contains antibacterial properties? This means that it can help keep our immune system strong! This 4th of July, try adding sautéed onions or garlic to your mashed potatoes for some extra flavor and nutrients. You could also add frozen cauliflower to smoothies to pump up the phytochemical power so you can stay strong throughout the summer.
- Phytochemicals such as anthocyanins and flavonoids are in blue fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, eggplant, plums, figs and raisins. Blueberries have many benefits such as making our skin healthy and making our bones strong. They have even been shown to help support our mental health. Blue fruits can be great additions in smoothies and can also be a delicious topping to a cup of oatmeal, cereal or yogurt.
With all of the benefits phytochemicals may provide, it would be silly to not incorporate them into our dietary pattern. This 4th of July, show off your phytochemical knowledge and bring a fruit and vegetable platter to your family picnic. Work to make healthier decisions in your life such as including phytochemicals in your dietary patterns.
Kristen K. Hicks-Roof Ph.D., RDN, LDN is an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Brooks College of Health, University of North Florida.