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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Phytonutrients: The Colors of Health

Phytonutrients help plants and people be healthy. Phytonutrients (also known as phytochemicals) are thousands of bioactive plant compounds that help protect plants from environmental stressors, including insect attack, disease, and other damaging influences. Many phytonutrients also contribute to the rich and different hues of fruits, vegetables, and other plants foods, such as nuts, herbs, and spices. Scientists continue to uncover the many antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and other health-promoting benefits to humans from phytonutrients, such as resveratrol, lycopene, and citrus bioflavonoids. Phytonutrients can work individually to support specific health functions (e.g., heart, brain, prostate), as well as work synergistically with other phytonutrients to promote overall health.

Consume a rainbow of phytonutrients. Though many phytonutrients have scientifically established health benefits and support the body in many ways, they are not yet considered to be "essential" nutrients. Eating greater amounts of plant-based foods rich in phytonutrients has been associated with increased health and longevity. That's why national health organizations recommend eating 5 to 13 servings of plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables daily. Consuming a "rainbow" of phytonutrients may increase the dietary value due to collective influences on health. Sadly, because Americans typically eat only 1.5 servings of vegetables and 1 serving of fruit daily, it's estimated that most Americans fall short in all 5 major colors of phytonutrients:

  • Green (spinach, green tea, peppers, spirulina): epigallocatechin gallate, indoles, isothiocyanate, lutein, zeaxanthin, isoflavones, sulphoraphane
  • Red (cranberries, beets, raspberries): anthocyanidins, lycopene, betalains, ellagic acid, resveratrol
  • White (garlic, onions, pears): indoles, allicin, quercetin, glucosinolates
  • Blue/purple (blueberries, grapes): anthocyanidins, flavonoids, phenolics, resveratrol
  • Yellow/orange (carrots, squash, lemons): alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, hesperidin

Choose organic. Because phytonutrients protect plants, foods grown without pesticides have been shown to contain more health-promoting phytonutrients. Organic fruits and vegetables have also been shown to provide higher content of essential vitamins and minerals than their conventionally grown counterparts.

Call today to make an appointment to learn more about ways you can help ensure you're getting a beneficial array of phytonutrients in a nutritional plan for healthy aging.

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