Phytochemicals or phytonutrients are the natural compounds found in plants that are powerfully beneficial to protect us from various diseases. But, the term “phytonutrients” and “vitamins” are commonly confused with each other. No doubt, both are derived from plants i.e. fruits and vegetables, but are entirely different from each other.
This piece highlights the difference between phytonutrients and vitamins.
- Vitamins are found in a variety of food but phytonutrients are obtained exclusively from plant-based foods.
- Vitamins are necessary to maintain the normal functions of the body whereas phytonutrients are not.
- Deficiency of phytonutrients doesn’t result in a disease whereas vitamin deficiency can cause poor health. E.g. phytosterols are a class of phytonutrients found in green and yellow vegetables. They block cholesterol absorption and help the body get rid of the extra cholesterol, thus preventing or reducing the risk of cardio-vascular disease. But, deficiency of phytosterols won’t result in cardio-vascular disease.
On the other hand, vitamin A is essential for healthy vision, skin, hair, bones, and immune system. And its deficiency will result in night blindness, hair fall, and poor immunity.
Thus, phytonutrients are the disease-preventing compounds that strengthen our immune system and prove beneficial for our overall health, but they can’t be classified as vitamins.