Many people are aware that eating plant based foods adds much needed fiber, vitamins and minerals to the diet but what is less well known is the many benefits of the phytochemicals that these plants contain.
Phytochemicals come in a variety of forms and different vegetables have higher concentrations of a particular phytochemical than others. In order to get the healing phytonutrients, you must get fruits and vegetables in the freshest form possible – that means no processed food, just raw fruits, berries, or veggies right off the bush or straight from the grocery store.
Some of the main phytochemicals include:
Carotenoids. They may help with cardiovascular disease and have anti-cancer properties. Found in broccoli, carrots, pumpkin, spinach, squash, sweet potato, yams, papaya, tomato, red bell pepper, mango, cantaloupe and avocado.
Flavonoids. They might help with inflammation, help fight cancer and boost your immune system. Found in cabbage, almonds, cucumber, parsley, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, grapes, papaya, strawberries, orange, blueberries, raspberries,yams, citrus fruit, soy, grapefruit, limes, nectarine, peach, chocolate, and lemon.
Isoflavonoids support your endocrine system and may help to fight cancer and free radicals. They are found in soy.
Indoles. Have beneficial effects on lipid synthesis that could contribute to their potential cardioprotective effect, also helps prevent and slow the growth of cancerous tumors. Found in cauliflower, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, kale and watercress.
Lignans is a significant natural supporter of breast wellness. Women ingesting significant levels of lignan precursors to promote optimal breast health have reported benefits such as improved mood, and reduced levels of hot flashes, irritability, cramping, bloating, breast tenderness, headache and insomnia. Found in walnuts, flax seeds, buckwheat, soy, mushrooms, sesame oil, oats, wheat, whole grain wheat, barley, beans, and almonds.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids support and help skin disorders, immune, circulatory, skeletal and respiratory systems. Found in walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, soybeans, honey and flaxseeds.
Plant Sterols. Found in eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, squash, cucumber, cabbage, broccoli, apples.
The list above is only a small segment of the entire phytochemical family which encompasses a very large and extensive range of nutrients.
Benefits of Phytochemicals
Phytochemicals act in numerous ways to assist your body in combating disease and health problems such as:
1) Help to protect the cells by blocking cancer causing compounds that try to enter the cell walls.
2) Helps to fight the malignant changes within cells.
3) Boosts enzyme activity to increase the benefits of the various protective enzymes consumed within the diet.
4) Combines with numerous vitamins to boost antioxidant activity to scavenge free radicals before they can cause damage within the body.
Although it is not important to know the names and benefits of the large range of phytochemicals that exist, what is important is to understand that maintaining a diet that contains a variety of fruits and vegetables will combine the benefits of the phytochemicals and vitamins to help you achieve optimal health.
By reducing your intake of high fat foods and increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables you will greatly reduce your chances of falling victim to the ever-growing list of degenerative diseases which plague the general population today as a result of following a typical western diet.
It is not only the damaging effects of high fat, high sugar foods in the western diet that allow cancer, heart disease etc to develop, but the absence of the protective phytochemicals that are only found in plant foods as well.
By adding plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet you will bring a host of phytochemicals to fight the damaging effects of free radicals and carcinogens and give you a level of health and vitality beyond what you can imagine.