Many people are of the notion that if you are going to be eating 3 or more times a day anyway, then why not eat in a way that becomes healing? Food can be medicine, and especially so when you take into account phytonutrients.
What are phytonutrients? Phytonutrients are chemicals that are naturally produced by plants to protect themselves from UV rays, invaders, bugs, and other predators.
When you eat these fruits and vegetables containing phytonutrients, you get the hidden benefits of the phytonutrients included naturally in the plant or vegetable.
Read on to see examples of some well-known and not-so-well-known phytonutrients so you can include them in your diet and boost your health.
Phytonutrient Health Benefits
Each kind of phytonutrient will have its own specific health benefits, but the main benefits are related to anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.
A nutrition diet filled with phytonutrients can help repair damaged DNA, reduce the risk of cancer or heart disease, increase immune functioning, detoxify the body, and favorably alter estrogen metabolism.
Not only that but as this article iterates, if you have an active life with a strenuous workout regime, then a healthy phytonutrient-filled diet can complement your workouts and active life and prevent disease.
The easiest way to tell whether your plant foods have phytonutrients in them is by checking their color. Phytonutrients give plants their pigments.
That’s why you should watch out for deep-hued foods, like spices, berries, green leafy vegetables, and more. The brighter the color, the more phytonutrients the plant foods have.
But this isn’t always the case. Garlic and onion are high in phytonutrients but are colorless. So don’t forget to include them in your diet.
Types of Phytonutrients
There are more than 25,000 phytonutrients found in plant foods. That means that you will never run out of phytonutrients to consume.
There are some that you might be aware of, like curcumin, which is found in turmeric and gives it that bright yellow hue. There are others like resveratrol which are found in red wine and have found favor in recent years.
What are phytonutrients you need to include in your diet? Let’s look at some below.
More than 600 carotenoids are found in plant foods.
The most well-known one is the one found in carrots. But they are also found in other plant foods like bell peppers, mangos, watermelons, spinach, tomatoes, and oranges.
The great thing about carotenoids is that the body can convert certain kinds into Vitamin A, which then has a lot of positive benefits in the body related to anti-aging, and immune function. It is also related to eye health.
This has to be the best phytonutrient out there. It’s also the one that’s related to the French paradox, where French people have a lot of saturated fats in their diet but are much healthier compared to Americans.
There is a suspicion it has to do with the high amounts of resveratrol in their diets, due to all the red wine that they consume.
Of course, the question always comes down to how much wine do you need to consume so you can have the ultimate benefits when it comes to resveratrol? There are still some challenges in figuring out exactly the optimal amount.
Turmeric was ubiquitous in household kitchens from India for the longest time, and slowly, other cultures are taking them on as well. Curcumin has been used in India to heal and prevent illness for centuries now.
Turmeric is actually part of the ginger family and is a cancer-prevention agent. If you add black pepper (piperine) to turmeric, it can increase its absorption by 2,000%. So don’t leave home without either one of these.
Not only does it add beautiful color to foods while preparing them, but it can also add a flavor and spice that you were missing.
Lignans are considered to be phytoestrogens, as they mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. They are mainly found in strawberries, kale, broccoli, apricots, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, rye, and oat bran.
Flax seeds are the richest source of lignans. They can help prevent hormone-related cancers, because of their estrogen-like activity, but more studies need to be done on this to prove its effects.
These are the largest group of phytonutrients out there. Because they are so diverse, they are found in a vast array of plant foods. Some of which are, apples, onions, coffee, grapefruit, tea, chocolate, red wine, and more.
Flavonoids help improve longevity and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and illness.
Meditteranean Diet and Phytonutrients
There is a reason why the Mediterranean diet found so much popularity in recent years. It is rich in phytonutrients with its emphasis on olive oil, wine, vegetables, and fruits, and fish.
That’s one of the reasons why the inhabitants in these countries live so long and have such an active and healthy life well into their 80s and 90s.
The same thing applies to the Seventh-day Adventists who eat a purely vegetarian diet and are much healthier than their American counterparts.
That’s also one of the reasons why the residents of Okinawa, Japan are being labeled the longest living community in the world. The Okinawa diet is rich in phytonutrients with lots of fresh produce, soy-based foods, and grains.
All in all, the more phytonutrients you can include in your diet, the better off your health will be. It might not take effect right away, but over time, you will be able to notice a difference.
What Are Phytonutrients? It’s Nature’s Accidental Gift to Us
Even though plants produce phytonutrients to protect themselves, they end up protecting human beings when eaten.
If you ask, what are phytonutrients? The only answer would be, they are nature’s accidental, but much appreciated gifts to us.
But you need to include them in your diet daily to recuperate the benefits. Ensure that every meal has at least a few different kinds of phytonutrients included within them.
If you found this article enlightening, please check out the other health-related articles on our website.