Yesterday we learned that sweet potatoes are considered a superfood. And although there is no true definition of a superfood, we know superfoods are foods that are packed full of key nutrients and phytochemicals.

What are Phytochemicals?

Phytochemicals are naturally occurring compounds found in plant-based foods that are thought to promote human health. Haven't heard of the term phytochemicals before, perhaps you have heard of the term phytonutrients? Often these terms are used interchangeably and generally are used to convey positive health messages regarding fruits and vegetables.

Good Sources of Phytochemicals

All fruits and vegetables contain these phytochemicals however some contain more than others. These compounds give our food their vibrant the color, flavor and smell. And that is why it is recommended that you eat a variety of fruits and vegetable.

There are many categories of phytochemicals, each associated with a variety of health benefits. These categories are often associated with the various colors; red, yellow, orange, purple, blue, dark green and white. For example, sweet potatoes or other red, orange or yellow plants, contain carotenoids. Carotenoids are considered pro-vitamins because they can be converted to active for of Vitamin A. Additionally, dietary carotenoids are thought to provide health benefits by decreasing the risk of eye diseases and certain types of cancer.

Therefore, the more and varied colors consumed, the more and varied the nutrients you in turn are consuming.

What does the Research say?

Research strongly suggests that consuming a diet rich in phytochemicals provides a variety of health benefits. However not enough information exists to make specific recommendations regarding the intake of phytochemicals at this time and more research is needed.

Today's post was written by Diane Reinhold, MPH, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving Jo Daviess, Stephenson & Winnebago Counties. She specializes in chronic disease prevention, food preservation and worksite wellness.