Many of us dutifully eat our veggies, yet few of us really understand why they’re so good for us. A lot of it comes down to phytonutrients, the powerful, plant-based chemicals found in veggies, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, herbs, and spices. Phytonutrients/phytochemicals are natural components of plants that are powerful defenders of health. Studies show that people who eat more plant foods are at a less risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Phytonutrients provide many functions for the plant, too, like providing protection from pests and environmental stressors. For us, phytonutrients stimulate enzymes which help the body rid itself from toxins, boost the immune system, change the structure and function of cells, improve cardiovascular health, promote healthy estrogen metabolism and stimulate the death of cancer cells; because we all got ‘em (Source). Certain phytonutrients can literally change how the liver metabolizes toxins. Other phytonutrients lodge their way into specific parts of the body because they have a role to play there, like in parts of the brain, blueberry compounds are responsible for learning and memory.
Unlike macronutrients (such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), not many people are familiar with phytonutrients. Maybe you know beta- carotene is found in carrots or that lycopene is found in tomatoes. You may even use resveratrol as an excuse to pour yourself a glass of red wine at night. But how about the other 25,000 phytonutrients? Yep, there are that many 🙂 (Source).
Don’t worry, you don’t have to take a gazillion supplements to get them all. Many phytonutrients are responsible for the beautiful hues of the plants they’re found in. Simply eating a wide spectrum of colorful, plant-based foods will ensure that you’re getting the diversity you need.
Get more phytonutrients into your diet
Just observe the colors you eat. A colorful plate should be your goal. Instead of eating the full rainbow of color, you may find yourself eating the typical SAD (standard American diet) of processed foods that are usually brown, yellow and/or white, which usually include fried, baked, and/or grilled foods that are inflammatory. Go ahead and pay attention to the next breakfast menu that you see. I bet you will find waffles, pancakes, ready-to-go cereal, sausage, and eggs- which isn’t too colorful. Now, think of a fruit smoothie with blueberries, peaches, raspberries and spinach, you’d already have four of the seven colors of the rainbow first thing in the morning. Make it your goal to get the full seven colors every day with a variety of foods!
Download a free phytonutrient weekly checklist –> Weekly Food Checklist (for kids & adults)