Plants are amazing living creatures; they withstand the harsh sun, remain stable through wind and rain and many produce beautiful food to nourish our bodies. Have you ever thought about how the plant withstands harsh ultraviolet rays, chemical sprays, pesky bugs and environmental toxins? Unlike us, they have no ability to slather on the sunscreen, step away from the spray or kill a bug with the use of their fingers (or fly swatter!). They are blessed with their own internal security system that kills off free radicals and helps the plant stay healthy and stable. This security system is known as phytonutrients. Phyto is the Greek word for plant, and we all know what nutrients are.
Phytonutrients offer us the same protection they offer the plant. If your goal is to prevent cardiovascular disease, lower cholesterol, purify your blood, prevent cancer, boost your immune system, detoxify the body and more, then this is your ticket to healthy, vibrant living. Researchers believe there will be an estimated 40,000 phytonutrients catalogued in the future. Can you believe that number? 40,000! In the past 30 years they’ve been able to identify the chemical structure and health benefits for 900 phytonutrients. There’s a lot of work to be done in the years ahead.
Phytonutrients are compounds found only in plant-based foods: leafy greens, vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Fill up on a variety of color; the more color you have, the bigger variety of phytonutrients you provide your body. Think red, yellow, orange, blue, purple, green, brown, etc.
We know that these phytonutrients work synergistically together to create health in our bodies.
They scavenge free radicals (which cause disease in the body) and kill them off, they provide cardiovascular protection, cancer protection, they boost your immune system and more. While we are provided guidelines for daily consumption of vitamins and minerals, it would be quite overwhelming and difficult for the researchers to provide guidelines for 900 phytonutrients. The other problem with providing guidelines is that the phytonutrients work synergistically, meaning that one phytonutrient in your food will increase the performance of another. This is why it is important to get our nutrients from whole foods instead of relying on supplements to do so, and also the reason for needing a variety of color in our diet.
Challenge yourself this week to eat a plant-based diet. Shoot for 80% or more of your food to be plant-based foods rich in bright color and disease-fighting phytonutrients. I’d love to hear how this challenge serves you! If I had to bet money on it, you’ll be feeling more energetic, get better sleep and your skin will glow.