I’m sure most of you have heard the word phytonutrient before, right? Well, if you haven’t it’s a super important word.
I’m sure you all have heard that eating whole, real foods, particularly plant-based is pretty good for you, though, right?
Good, then let’s start there.
The real question is: why is eating whole, real plant-based foods so good for you? What’s so special about them?
The answer: phytonutrients.
Sure, fruits, veggies, and other plant-based foods are rich in nutrients and vitamins. But phytonutrients are only in whole, real plant-based foods, and they are very special.
To break it down: phyto means “plant” in Latin, and phytonutrients refers to the “non-nutrient” parts of plants. So, phytonutrients don’t give us energy like fat, carbs, and protein do, they also don’t provide us with any vitamins or minerals.
The three most common phytonutrients are: flavinoids (in apples, onions, and soy), carotenoids (in tomatoes (lycopene!!) and carrots), and anthocyanins (in strawberries and blueberries). Phytonutrients come in several different colors, which is why you’re always encouraged to “eat the rainbow” — in order to get a variety of phytonutrients!
In the plant, phytonutrients serve two primary purposes:
1. They are a natural defense mechanism.
2. They enhance the plant’s reproductive effectiveness.
In people, phytonutrients have been studied for their their ability to fight disease — yep, whole foods from plants fight disease.
Research has also shown that phytonutrients can:
1. Be antioxidants
2. Boost your immune system
3. Enhance cell-to-cell communication
4. Improve estrogen metabolism
5. Kill cancer cells
6. Repair DNA
7. Detox carcinogens
Plus, I mean, they make your food all colorful and flavorful!
So why is it important to eat whole, real plant-based foods and not refined or processed plant foods?
Well, imagine you’re listening to your favorite band. There are 6 members of the band (think: carbs, fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc). If you refine the band, some members get removed. Now, all you have left is the drummer and base player. Is the music the same? No, it probably is missing a lot of the good parts.
Plants are similar. The process of refining or processing removes parts of the original food, specifically the fiber. This makes for less-awesome music and less-awesome food. Having that balanced but complex web of nutrients is essential to get all the benefits you can out of whole, real plant-based foods.
Okay, so what are “plant-based foods”?
- Whole grains
- Herbs and spices
Do any of you have amazing phytonutrient-rich recipes you want to share?