Nutrition health is one of those fields that is constantly evolving. Our understanding of what's good to eat and what's on the list to avoid seems to change almost daily. But there's one thing that has consistently been on the good list and that's fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies have been pinned to the top of the list primarily because they're a great source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
While vitamins and minerals have been studied and we seem to have a good grip on how they benefit our bodies, phytonutrients on the other hand are a relatively new idea that scientists see as even more crucial to human health than we ever thought.
What are Phytonutrients?
Phytonutrients are simple nutrients that are only found in and produced by fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains, aka plant foods. Some scientists believe that there are up to 4000 different phytonutrients. Thousands have already been discovered but few have been studied.
What Do They Do?
Consuming phytonutrients in the form of fruits and vegetables has been linked to reducing your likelihood of developing certain cancers and diseases. They have also been credited with battling oxidative stress caused by free radicals- unstable molecules that form when your exercise, your body converts food to energy, and when your exposed to cigarette smoke, air pollution, and UV rays.
Eat Your Fruits and Veggies!
The most important thing to note about phytonutrients is that there is no evidence that they work when consumed in the form of a supplement. Some studies show that too high of a dose of certain phytonutrients in supplement form can actually do more harm than good. The only safe way to consume them is through actual fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains.
A few of the best studied phytonutrients includes:
Anthocyanosides- Found in red and purple berries, as well as plums, red radishes, red onions, and red potatoes. Anthocyanosides are responsible for aiding in blood vessel health.
Beta-Carotene- Found in carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, and collard greens- basically orange veggies and dark leafy greens. Beta-carotene is believed to benefit our skin, bones, immune system, and vision.
Lutein- Found in artichokes, kale, collard greens, brussel sprouts, and lettuce. This one is expected to help with heart and eye health and combating cancer.
Lycopene- Found in tomatoes, red peppers, pink grapefruit, and watermelon. Lycopene is suspected to benefit heart health and help with combating prostate cancer.
Resveratrol- Found in grapes, red wine, and dark chocolate. This phytonutrient is expected to improve heart and lung health, reduce inflammation, and combat cancer.
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