Have you seen those two guys on TV in the pond filled with cranberries promoting the antioxidant power of cranberries? We all assume they're good for us, but most people actually underestimate the power of antioxidants and phytonutrients in general.
And that's precisely the buzz in health news: the power of a specific class of phytonutrients known as antioxidants. I see them every time I turn on the tube or check the web!
What are Phytonutrients?
Phytonutrients are not vitamins or minerals. Phytonutrients are certain organic compounds found in plants believed to provide protective benefits that promote our health.
There are many different types of phytonutrients, such as anthocyanidins (a type of antioxidant found in blue and purple foods), glycoproteins, polysaccharides, (essential sugars that protect the myelin sheath of our nerves and promote health in our digestive and immune systems), phytosterols (heart and arterial protecting compounds) and polyphenols found in a variety of foods including brans, nuts, seeds, dried spices, fruits and vegetables
- Serve as antioxidants, protecting cells from free radicals that cause aging and illness
- Enhance immune response, elevating our ability to produce antibodies and killer cells
- Enhance cell-to-cell communication
- Alter estrogen metabolism
- Convert beta-carotene to vitamin A
- Help cause cancer cells to die (apoptosis)
- Repair DNA damage caused by smoking and other toxic exposures
- Detoxify some carcinogens
So, what's this mean exactly?
It reinforces what our grandmothers have told us for years: we should eat our fruits and vegetables! Eating fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds and whole grains are good for us and provide our bodies with all the vitamins and essential nutrients that they crave.
Getting your phytonutrients from foods has a much more powerful effect than taking isolated phytonutrients or antioxidant supplements. Our bodies are designed to get nutrients from natural, unprocessed foods. Antioxidants that exist together in their natural form, like in rice bran, blueberries or spinach, synergize when eaten, making them much more powerful than when consumed in supplement form.
Fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds also provide vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and fiber in addition to carbohydrates, proteins and heart healthy fats and oils.
If you're not eating at least 2 servings of fruits, 3 servings of vegetables, 4 servings of whole grains and 1 ounce of nuts and seeds daily, you're robbing your body of the essential nutrients required for vibrant health. The SAD (Standard American Diet) has made Americans one of the least healthy populations of all industrialized nations, spending over twice the money per person on health care.
Make veggies, fruits, grains, beans, nuts and seeds a part of your daily diet; your body will love you for it!