For the most part, we are familiar with the basic nutrients in our foods; proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. However, plant foods, especially colorful fruits and vegetables, also contain “secret nutrients” that play an important role in health and disease prevention.
In her article, “Color Your Health with Superfoods”, holistic pharmacist, Rosemarie Pierce., quotes leading scientist James A. Joseph, in saying that “one of the biggest scientific discoveries made is that colorful fruits and vegetables contain many disease-fighting compounds known as phytochemicals and that we need the protective benefits of the full spectrum of their bright colors.” She also makes reference to Dr. James Duke, author of “The Green Pharmacy”, in re-iterating this powerful statement: “Cancer in many cases is a deficiency of antioxidants. So is heart disease. Scientists are starting to think of these diseases as a shortage of phytochemicals.”
Secret Nutrients to Health: Phytochemicals
Rosemarie explains that phytochemicals, or phytonutrients, are “a wide range of naturally occurring chemicals that give flavor, color, texture and odor to plants. In fact, the more intensely colored and the more flavorful and scent-filled the plant, the more concentrated the health-protective phytochemical content. Our primary sources of phytochemicals are vegetables (including seaweed and algae), fruits (especially berries), cereal grasses, and sprouts.”
She continues to explain what these components do for the body. “There are literally thousands of different phytochemicals found throughout the plant kingdom. These phytochemicals are proving to exhibit a wide range of biological activities, arising mainly from their antioxidant properties, their anti-inflammatory strengths, and their ability to boost the body’s natural detoxification systems. They have been recognized to exert anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-cardiovascular disease (anti-CVD), and anti-cancer activity as well as analgesic, anti-allergic, liver protective, estrogenic and anti-estrogenic effects. Phytochemicals often work synergistically with one another, producing their health-giving properties only when two or more are present.” Examples of commonly mentioned phytochemicals include: carotenoids, phytosterols, flavonoids, phytoestrogens, glucosinolates and indoles. Tomatoes alone are said to contain an estimated 10,000 different phytochemicals!
Rosemarie states: “according to Dr. Joseph, co-author of the newly published book “The Color Code”, eating 9 to 10 servings of vibrantly colored produce each day is optimal for degenerative disease protection (1 serving equals either 1/2-cup chopped vegetables or fruits or 1 cup berries or chopped greens). A rainbow approach to eating (green, yellow-orange, red, blue-purple colored fruits and vegetables) provides a broad range of these health-promoting phytochemicals.”
For those who find these requirements challenging, Dr. Michael Murray, N.D, in “The Complete Book of Juicing”, explains that juicing is a fun and efficient way to increase consumption of these ingredients as it provides the nutritional advantages of plant foods in a concentrated, easily digestible and absorbable form. In his book, he describes the benefits of juicing as increased energy, strengthened immunity, reduced risk of disease, strong bones and glowing complexion, among many others.
Dr. Michael Murray recommends up to 12 oz. of fresh fruit juice and up to 24 oz. of fresh vegetable juice daily and suggests to choose a rainbow of colorful produce. However, be sure to note that juicing separates liquid from pulp, which contains fibre. Therefore, it is also important to take in fruits and vegetables in their whole form. Another option is to consider a high-quality greens/superfood powder that incorporates 6-8 servings of produce in a single scoop!
Local, Organic Produce
Dr. Michael Murray strongly urges to buy local and organic fruits and vegetables, as this is the safest way to avoid produce that has been sprayed. He states: “exposure to these chemicals damages our body’s detoxification mechanicals, thereby increasing your risk of cancer and other diseases.” He adds that kids are especially at risk as they eat more food relative to body mass and consume foods higher in pesticide residues. It should be noted that some fruit and vegetables are more likely to contain pesticides than others and certain items should be top priority when selecting local and organic foods. Also, by choosing local foods, transit time is eliminated and nutrient content remains high.
So whether you scoop, juice or eat them, it is highly recommended to consume an array of multi-colored produce every day to protect oneself against disease and experience the multiple benefits phytochemicals have to offer!
This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.