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Phytonutrients: Defend Your Body With Plant Power

Posted by Geoff Beaty on 3 July 2021
Phytonutrients: Defend Your Body With Plant Power

Phytonutrients are power-packed natural additions to your diet. These natural chemicals are what give plants their colour, odour, and flavour.

Plants also use phytonutrients to defend themselves against predators, and we can use them to defend against illness, inflammation, heart disease and even cancer.

Common phytonutrients include chemicals called polyphenols, flavonoids, and carotenoids.

Phytonutrients Can Help You:

Reduce inflammation; Remove free radicals (unstable molecules that can damage cells and DNA); Maintain cell health; Boost immunity; Regulate estrogen and insulin; Fight heart disease

How do phytonutrients help fight cancer?

Research shows that phytonutrients can help prevent and fight cancer by:

1. Blocking substances from becoming carcinogens (cells that can cause cancer)
2. Repairing mutated genes that might otherwise become cancerous
3. Slowing tumor growth
4. Promoting cell death (the process that removes abnormal cells)

How can I get phytonutrients without affecting cancer treatment?

Eat whole foods including fruits, vegetables, spices, legumes, and edible flowers. There's no evidence that consuming antioxidants through foods causes harm.

How to Get Phytonutrients: Eat the Rainbow

Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are packed with phytonutrients. Their color depends on the dominant phytonutrient. To make the most of nature's nutrients, eat the rainbow.

Different-colored foods have different helpful phytonutrients. In the articles below, we explain how each color helps you and we give you tasty recipes to try, too.

Go Red to Help Your Heart

Go Green for Your Bones, Eyes, and Blood

Go Purple for Your Heart and Your Brain

Go Orange and "See" the Benefits

Go White to Help Your Heart, Blood Vessels, and Immune System



Conklin, K.A., "Dietary Antioxidants During Cancer Chemotherapy: Impact on Chemotherapeutic Effectiveness and Development of Side Effects," Nutrition and Cancer, 2000.
Ladas, E. and K.M. Kelly, "The Antioxidant Debate," Explore: The Journal of Science & Healing, 2010.
Norma, H.A. et al., "The Role of Dietary Supplements During Cancer Therapy," Journal of Nutrition, November 2003.
Greenlee, Heather et al., "Antioxidant Supplement Use After Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Mortality in the LACE Cohort," Cancer, April 2012.

Author:Geoff Beaty
Tags:NewsPrevention & RecoveryDiets & RecipesCancer


  • The Institute for Functional Medicine
  • Society for Integrative Oncology
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
  • Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia