(Whether you’re young or old, a baby boomer or even an older adult, fruits and vegetables play a key role in your diet. The latest recommendation, 9 – 13 servings per day, recognizes the amount needed for optimal wellness and longevity.
The following is a layperson’s explanation of phytochemicals, or phytonutrients, which give fruits and veggies their super powers, excerpted from my book, Building Your Enduring Fitness, 2018, Aviva Publishing, available on Amazon.)
“The most exciting research about fruits and vegetables centers around food components called phytochemicals. These are naturally-occurring chemicals that plants produce; they provide the plants with their characteristic colors, odors, and flavors. For example, they’re what make blueberries blue and give chili peppers their bite.
Phytochemicals are not essential, so they’re not considered to be nutrients like vitamins and minerals. And we don’t seem to have long-term storage capacity in our bodies for them. Their absorption is affected by the microbes in your gut and by your genetics.
Researchers have discovered thousands of these compounds and believe there are many more to be identified. You may be familiar with some popular ones: flavonoids (black tea, berries, parsley), carotenoids (carrots and cantaloupe), curcumin (turmeric), and resveratrol (grapes and wine).
In a recent article in Today’s Dietitian, the author lays out the benefits of phytochemicals. These compounds can reduce inflammation (anti-inflammatory properties), reduce the risk of oxidative damage to cells (antioxidants), stimulate the immune system, prevent toxic substances in the diet from becoming carcinogenic, prevent DNA damage, aid DNA repair, and activate insulin receptors.
As a result, evidence exists that consuming foods rich in phytochemicals may reduce the risk of:
• cardiovascular disease
• breast, lung, and colon cancer
• Type 2 diabetes
• Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
Although not enough information exists to make specific recommendations for phytochemical intake, scientists and healthcare practitioners recommend we depend on whole foods, not supplements, for these nutrients. That’s because they co-exist in synergistic relationships in specific proportions we can’t adequately reproduce, and there are likely other phytochemicals we haven’t discovered yet.
So it’s best to include all the colors of the rainbow.”
(Note: Many of you know I’ve recently partnered with a company that’s figured out how to put fruits and veggies in a capsule, starting with whole foods–Juice Plus+. Research shows that people who consume Juice Plus+ have significant increases in the amount of antioxidants (or phytochemicals) and other nutrients in the blood. Because these are absorbed, the body can better utilize them for health benefits.)
For more information on getting more fruits and vegetables into your diet, as well as Juice Plus+ products, visit my website.