While taking supplemental vitamins and minerals has a place, and at times can be useful, they can never take the place of eating fruit, vegetables and other plant foods. There are many substances found in fruit and vegetables that have not yet been isolated and produced in supplemental form. One type of these substances is known as phytonutrients. They are involved in many processes in our bodies some of which include:
- Functioning as an antioxidant
- Increasing the production of our detoxification enzymes
- Stimulating and strengthening the immune system
- Have a positive effect on hormones
- Have antibacterial and antiviral properties
- Slows the aging of the brain
- Assists with maintaining healthy vision
Phytonutrients have been found to have a role to play in the prevention and treatment of the big four. That is cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. This is not surprising when the role they play in our bodies includes helping to prevent cell damage, preventing cancer cell replication and decreasing cholesterol levels.
Phytonutrients are often found in and close to the skins of fruit and vegetables. For this reason it is beneficial to use the skins as often as practicable. If you do peel the skin, peel it as thinly as possible to retain the most benefit.
There is still much that is unknown and while it is estimated that there could be as many as 30,000 – 50,000 phytonutrients, only about 1,000 have as yet been isolated. Of these only 100 have been tested and analysed. From what has been discovered so far we can be assured that just because a substance has not been isolated, tested and analysed does not mean that it is useless. Rather, it is reasonable to assume that those other special nutrients that have not yet been isolated will have some amazing and beneficial functions for us.
It is from these phytonutrients that the fruit and vegetables get their color, scent and flavour. Bearing in mind that there is not just one phytonutrient, but that each fruit and vegetable have their own particular ones, it makes sense to include a wide variety of fruit and vegetables in our diets. Also, try to include many different colors to ensure a greater diversity of these special nutrients.
The best way to have these phytonutrients benefit our health is to find more ways of eating a wider variety of plant foods. New recipes and methods of cooking them can give you and your family a new perspective on enjoying fruit and vegetables. Build your health as you include more fruit, vegetables and other plant foods in your diet.