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Food for Thought: The Relationship Between Oral Health and Nutrition

Course Number: 583


Phytonutrients are chemical compounds produced by plants and are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, spices, nuts and seeds. Plants contain more than 25,000 phytonutrients that are classified into six categories that act as antioxidants by protecting the body from free radical damage thereby reducing inflammation associated with numerous health conditions.34

The following table provides examples of phytonutrients and the foods in which they are found. Recent studies have discovered numerous health benefits and disease prevention properties in phytonutrients.11

phytochemical foods

Antioxidants are also known as “free radical scavengers” as they serve as protectors from free radical cell damage. By incorporating more colorful fruits and vegetables – especially those with purple, red, orange, and yellow hues, you will be certain to include beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E, the three superstar antioxidants in your diet.11 Recent studies have not yielded the same result by taking antioxidant supplements, thus eating foods rich in fruits and vegetables is still the best way to incorporate antioxidants in your diet.14

Many integrative health professionals utilize antioxidants as functional foods to enhance the treatment of inflammatory health conditions. The USDA tested over 100 foods from all categories and found antioxidants come from a variety of foods such as beans (black, kidney, pinto), fruits (wild blueberries, cranberries, black raspberries), vegetables (dark greens, cruciferous, and potatoes) and spices and herbs (cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger). Don’t forget beverages such as coffee, green tea, and red wine can also supply a healthy dose of antioxidants.