These days there are a lot of "buzz words" when it comes to nutrition. Science has found an abundance of nutrients that were not known before. It is easy to get confused when you hear such words as phytonutrients, polyphenols, carotenoids, anthocyanins and Omega fatty acids. What do they all mean?
Everyone is familiar with protein, fat and carbohydrates as they are just the basic classifications of food. Break them down and there are the important vitamins such as A, C, E, D and the B complex and the essential minerals such as calcium, zinc, chromium and magnesium. But science has found that there are also hundreds of "micronutrients". These are nutrients that are required in smaller quantities but are still essential. This would include the phytonutrients, polyphenols, carotenoids, anthocyanins and Omega fatty acids.
A phytonutrient is a naturally occurring, non-vitamin, non-mineral component of food that offers significant health benefits. Some important types of beneficial phytonutrients are polyphenols, carotenoids, anthocyanins and phytoestrogens.
Polyphenols are a substance that acts as an antioxidant. This group of nutrients was formerly known as vitamin P. They have anti-inflammatory properties and they are antiallergenic. You can find polyphenols in berries, tea, red wine, and dark chocolate, coffee, pomegranates and more.
Carotenoids are the orange-red pigment found in red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, pumpkins, apricots, carrots and sweet potatoes. Carotenoids are a vitamin A precursor, which means that we convert this substance to vitamin A in our bodies. These nutrients are antioxidants and they can protect us from cancers and help to defy the effects of aging.
Anthocyanins are the deep blue to purple pigment that gives blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, red cabbage and more their deep, vibrant colors. Anthocyanins can provide potential health effects against aging and neurological diseases, cancers, inflammation, diabetes and bacterial infections based upon laboratory evidence.
Omega Fatty Acids include Omega 3, Omega 6 and Omega 9. These are known as essential fatty acids because our bodies lack the ability to synthesize these fats in our bodies and we must get them from our diet. Our modern diet provides much more Omega 6 than Omega 3 yet we need a beneficial ratio of 1:1 for these crucial fats. Omega 3 Fatty acids are a critical component of healthy cell membranes, which are vitally important for the proper development of the eyes, a healthy cardiovascular system and a high functioning immune system.
Nutritional science is finding more and more evidence of the importance of these vital micronutrients every day. In order to get the highest nutrition you need to eat a variety of healthful foods every day.