Phytonutrients might help to prevent disease and keep the body working properly, according to WebMD. Six classes of phytonutrients - carotenoids, ellagic acid, flavonoids, glucosinloate, phytoestrogens and resveratrol - have specific benefits for the human body.
Carotenoids are antioxidants. They reduce the levels of free radicals, which can damage tissues in the body, according to WebMD. Some types of carotenoids can also be converted to vitamin A, which is essential for the immune system and eye health. Lycopene, which is a carotenoid, might reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
There is some evidence that ellagic acid, which is found in berries, could slow the growth of cancer cells and help the liver to neutralize chemicals that cause cancer, according to WebMD. Some flavonoids might also reduce the risk of cancer, while others might reduce inflammation and lower the risk of heart disease or asthma. Resveratrol is another anti-inflammatory phytonutrient, and some research suggests that it could reduce the risk of heart disease.
Phytoestrogens could have health benefits for women. These chemicals, which are found in soy foods, act like estrogen in the body, according to WebMD. There is some evidence that they could reduce the risk of endometrial cancer and bone loss in women.