Food Sources of Some Phytochemical Compounds

Fruits, vegetables, beans, and wholegrain bread and cereals are typically rich in phytochemicals. Although these plant components are not considered essential nutrients in the diet, many of these substances provide significant health benefits. The phytochemical category includes compounds recognized as essential nutrients, which are naturally contained in plants and required for normal physiological functions. They must be obtained from the diet in humans.

Food Sources of Some Phytochemical Compounds-CookingEggs

Red, blue, and purple colors of berries derive mainly from polyphenol phytochemicals called anthocyanins.

Cucurbita fruits, including squash and pumpkin, typically have a high content of the phytochemical pigments called carotenoids.

Considerable research attention is focused on various phytochemicals in reducing the risk of certain diseases.  Although certain phytochemicals are available as dietary supplements, research suggests that their health benefits are best obtained through the consumption of whole foods. Foods with high phytochemical content are sometimes called superfoods because of the health benefits they are thought to confer. 

There is no legal definition of the term superfood, and there is concern that it is being overused in marketing certain foods. Here list some noteworthy phytochemicals with their common food sources. 

List of phytochemicals in food

Phytochemical Food Sources
AnthocyanidinsRed, blue, and purple plants (blueberries, eggplant), red wine, many red, purple or blue fruits and vegetables
Allyl sulfides/organosulfursGarlic, onions, leeks
CarotenoidsOrange, red, yellow fruits and vegetables (egg yolks are a source as well)
– α-CaroteneCarrots, pumpkins, maize, tangerine, orange
– β-CaroteneDark, leafy greens, red, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables
CanthaxanthinPaprika, mushrooms, crustaceans, fish and eggs
LycopeneGac, tomatoes, grapefruit, watermelon, guava, apricots, carrots, autumn olive
CapsaicinChili peppers
Ellagic acidStrawberries, raspberries, grapes, apples, bananas, nuts
FructooligosaccharidesOnions, bananas, oranges (small amounts)
FlavonoidsCitrus fruit, onions, apples, grapes, red wine, tea, chocolate, tomatoes
LignansFlaxseed, berries, whole grains
LuteinSpinach, turnip greens, romaine lettuce, eggs, red pepper, pumpkin, mango, papaya, oranges, kiwi, peaches, squash, brassicas, prunes, sweet potatoes, honeydew melon, rhubarb, plum, avocado, pear, cilantro
MonoterpenesOranges, lemons, grapefruit
IndolesCruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower,  garden cress, bok choybrussels sprouts, mustard plant)
IsothiocyanatesCruciferous vegetables, especially broccoli
PhytosterolsSoybeans, other legumes, cucumbers, other fruits and vegetables
IsoflavonesSoybeans, other legumes
ResveratrolGrapes, peanuts, red wine
SaponinsGarlic, onions, licorice, legumes, soybeans, beans, maize, alfalfa, other legumes
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