Les Phytonutriments - MYCELAB



What is a phytonutrient?

The term comes from the Greek phyto , meaning plant or vegetable. A nutrient is the smallest chemical substance in a food or resulting from its digestion, which will subsequently be used to fill a need of the body. Phytonutrients are molecules produced by plants to protect themselves from UV rays, insects and certain germs.

Why it matters

It has been shown that “ ORGANICfruits and vegetables contain more phytonutrients than other plants. This is explained by the fact that products from organic farming are not treated with chemicals (pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, etc.).

There are a large number of phytonutrients but we mainly find in our food:

  • Carotenoids
  • Polyphenols


These are pigments which give their color with fruits and vegetables: they are mainly found in grapes, cabbage, peppers, sweet potatoes. They are excellent for our body because they attack free radicals which damage our tissues (muscles, skin, nerves, blood tissue, etc.) and prevent cardiovascular diseases or even prostate cancer.

Carotenoids have the characteristic of being lipid soluble , that is, they can dissolve in fats. Their assimilation is more effective when consumed in the presence of fat (oil, butter, dairy products, etc.). A cooking so-called “long” also allows them to be better absorbed by the body.

Lycopene , a pigment giving the red color to plants ( tomato and watermelon), is the most present carotenoid in the human body and accumulates in particular in the liver and the prostate. According to an article , lycopene tends to be released when tomatoes are cooked or candied.

The body has the ability to transform certain plant carotenoids into vitamin A (retinol): they are called provitamins A. Beta -carotene is the pigment that gives a yellow-orange color to peppers, carrots, melons and sweet potatoes. It plays an essential role in the synthesis of vitamin A, since it is the main precursor. Vitamin A, for its part, is important in the mechanisms of vision.

Lutein is the pigment that gives a dark green color to salad and spinach, for example . According to Sandra C. Miller, full professor at the McGill Faculty of Medicine, lutein is a component found mainly in the retina of the eye (and more particularly in the macula, a yellow spot present at the bottom of the eye). 'eye).

It is not produced naturally by the body. It must therefore be provided by consuming, for example, kale, spinach, squash, broccoli, peas, preferably cooked. This carotenoid has antioxidant properties and helps filter blue light from screens that is harmful to the eyes.


From the Greek poly , which means several, polyphenols present several phenol molecules with numerous beneficial properties for health: antioxidant (fight against free radicals and cell aging), anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer.

Some studies have shown that a diet rich in polyphenols would halve the risk of cardiovascular or neurodegenerative diseases.

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There are 6 main families of polyphenols:

  1. Ellagic acid is a constituent of tannin-producing plants, found in many fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, raspberries, pecans and pomegranates . 
  2. Resveratrol is a metabolite produced by plants that has antioxidant properties. It is notably synthesized in grape grains . “Epidemiological and experimental studies have shown that resveratrol acts on the body as a preventive agent cardiovascular diseases as well as certain cancers.” Resveratrol is mainly found in blackberries, broad beans, cocoa, rhubarb and pomegranate.
  3. THE flavonoids are metabolites found in certain flowers and plants, giving them varied colors. They represent an important source of antioxidants. We distinguish the flavones responsible for the bitterness of fruits and vegetables (grapefruit), tannins which have the property of being astringent – ​​a feeling of tension and tightening of the tissues of the mouth like in the skin of grapes. We also note anthocyanin which gives the red and blue color to fruits (redcurrant, blueberry), flavonols present in tea and isoflavones found in soy milk .
  4. THE phytoestrogens are plant metabolites similar in structure to female sex hormones (estradiol is the hormone synthesized by the ovaries). They are mainly found in soy-based products. and other pulses ( beans ) as well as certain cereals such as sesame and flax seeds .
  5. THE phytosterols are lipids present in plants, notably oils, cereals, fresh fruits and vegetables, oilseed fruits (olive, nuts, etc.). Sterols have a structure close to cholesterol present in fats of animal origin (meat, butter, eggs, etc.). A label that says “product enriched with phytosterols” indicates that these reduce blood cholesterol and can prevent the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
  6. THE Glucosinolates are plant metabolites that possess a bitter or pungent flavor as in cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli), radishes and mustard .

Phytonutrients present in plants help preserve our health. Acting as antioxidants, they help protect the body against free radicals so as not to damage our healthy cells.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of foods with a high content of phytonutrients which provide the body with protection and vitamins:

  • Red, orange and yellow peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Berries
  • Oranges
  • Broccoli, cauliflower and kale
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Nuts and walnut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Red wine
  • Chocolate
  • Turmeric, ginger and garlic
  • Whole grains rich in fiber

Even the best diet can be insufficient. Although a good diet allows you to obtain an adequate quantity of phytonutrients, it is also recommended to take courses of food supplements in order to be at your best in health and well-being.

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