Many people are aware that eating plant based foods adds much needed fiber, vitamins and minerals to the diet but what is less well known is the many benefits of the phytochemicals that these plants contain.
Phytochemicals come in a variety of forms and different vegetables have higher concentrations of a particular phytochemical than others. Some of the main phytochemicals include:
Carotenoids – Found in broccoli, carrots, pumpkin, spinach, squash, sweet potato, yams and papaya.
Flavonoids – Found in cabbage, cucumber, parsley, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, and berries.
Isoflavones – Found in peas, lentil and mung bean sprouts.
Indoles – Found in cauliflower, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, kale and watercress.
Lignans – Found in walnuts, flaxseeds and many other nuts and seeds.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Found in walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and flaxseeds.
Plant Sterols – Found in eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, squash, cucumber, cabbage, broccoli, apples.
The list above is only a small segment of the entire phytochemical family which encompasses a very large and extensive range of nutrients.
Benefits of Phytochemicals
Phytochemicals act in numerous ways to assist your body in combating disease and health problems such as:
1) Help to protect the cells by blocking cancer causing compounds that try to enter the cell walls.
2) Helps to fight the malignant changes within cells.
3) Boosts enzyme activity to increase the benefits of the various protective enzymes consumed within the diet.
4) Combines with numerous vitamins to boost antioxidant activity to scavenge free radicals before they can cause damage within the body.
Although it is not important to know the names and benefits of the large range of phytochemicals that exist, what is important is to understand that maintaining a diet that contains a variety of fruits and vegetables will combine the benefits of the phytochemicals and vitamins to help you achieve optimal health.
By reducing your intake of high fat foods and increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables you will greatly reduce your chances of falling victim to the ever-growing list of degenerative diseases which plague the general population today as a result of following a typical western diet.
It is not only the damaging effects of high fat, high sugar foods in the western diet that allow cancer, heart disease etc to develop, but the absence of the protective phytochemicals that are only found in plant foods as well.
By adding plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet you will bring a host of phytochemicals to fight the damaging effects of free radicals and carcinogens and give you a level of health and vitality beyond what you can imagine.