Most people know that we need adequate amounts of oxygen, water, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids and good carbs for great health. What they don’t realize is that a group of micronutrients, also called phytonutrients, can help prevent disease and restore health and vitality.
Phytonutrient-rich food is essential to vibrant health and wellbeing, yet these critical nutrients are rarely given a first or second thought.
There are about 2,000 known phytonutrients and many others are being discovered all the time.
They’re found in fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts, sprouts and seeds. A single fruit or vegetable may contain more than 100 types of healing phytonutrients that basically make up the immune system of the plant. Once eaten, they impart their incredible healing abilities inside your body. The thousands of phytonutrients are categorized into families, including carotenoids, catechins, flavonoids, lipoic acid, phytoestrogens, polyphenols, sulfurophane and others. Let’s explore the phytonutrient families and find out how you can include more of them in your diet.
It’s not necessary to memorize the names of the phytonutrients or the foods in which they’re found to benefit from them. Here are some of the main groups of phytonutrients to help you understand why you’d want to eat a diet that’s supercharged with them.
These natural, health-boosting substances give certain fruits their purple to reddish color. Not only does research show that anthocyanins have the capacity to boost short-term memory by 100 percent in just eight weeks, they also stimulate the burning of stored fat in the body to be used as fuel. Anthocyanins are found in dark purple or red grapes, cherries and berries, including blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries.
Carotenoids are the yellow, orange and red pigments found in foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, mangoes, pumpkin, tomatoes, papaya, peaches and other similarly colored foods as well as dark green vegetables like broccoli and leafy greens. Not only do they help strengthen your eyesight and boost your immunity to disease, they are powerful antioxidants that, in some studies, reduce the risk of cancer and protect against the effects of aging.
Want to lose weight? Be sure to add catechins to your diet since they activate fat-burning genes in abdominal fat cells to assist with weight loss, and belly fat loss in particular. According to research at Tufts University, catechins increase abdominal fat loss by 77 percent and double total weight loss. Catechins are mainly found in green and black tea, as well as apples.
Flavonoids are the miracle nutrients we keep hearing about in the media lately. Found in berries, cherries, currants, pomegranates, red and purple grapes, red onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, apple (skin) and walnuts, flavonoids interfere with the development of cancer cells. Resveratrol, a particular flavonoid found predominantly in grapes, has demonstrated its ability to protect the brain from damage.
While there are many other phytonutrients, they all share a common role as nature’s miracle healers. It’s not imperative to remember all the names. The easiest way to ensure you get a broad spectrum of phytonutrients is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables of different colors: reds, purples, greens, oranges, etc. If you try to eat a rainbow assortment of foods you’ll get plenty of important health-building phytonutrients. For more information consult my book The Vitality Diet.