Solution #7 in creating a healthy diet plan is to boost your intake of phytonutrients from plant-based whole foods (If you missed solution #6 to creating a healthy diet plan click HERE.) Phytonutrients are only found in plant based foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, “whole” soy, etc.) Phytonutrients not only protect the plant, they have potent anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties that protect YOU, the plant eater!
Watch the video above to learn more about some “real world” solutions to boosting your intake of phytonutrients as part of a healthy diet plan.
People Who Eat More Plant Foods (and Thus More Phytonutrients) Are Healthier…AND Leaner
While whole foods are the foundation of “clean cuisine”, unrefined plant-based foods are the truly “cleanest” whole foods on earth. Plant-based foods should make up the bulk of any healthy diet plan.
Research shows populations with low death rates from major killer diseases —populations that almost never have overweight members—consume more than 75 percent of their calories from unrefined plant-foods. This is approximately ten times more than what the average American consumes. You don’t have to be a vegan, instead you should simply consciously try to eat more plant-based foods and less animal foods.
Andy and I are not the only ones who have hopped on the plant-food bandwagon. The Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the Council of Cardiovascular Disease in the Young, the Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, the American Dietetic Association, the Division of Nutrition Research of the National Institutes of Health, The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Society for Clinical Nutrition all concur.…Americans should eat more phytonutrient-rich unrefined plant food and less animal food. These dietary guidelines were published in the July 27, 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Did You Know Plant Foods Have Fewer Toxins?
Keep in mind organic animal foods contain considerably more toxins than non-organic plant foods simply because they are higher up on the food chain—the higher up on the food chain you go, the greater the chance of accumulating toxins found in the environment. Toxic overload can contribute to inflammation, weight gain and a host of other health problems. One of the easiest things you can do to reduce toxic overload is to eat less animal foods and more plant-based foods.
Don’t Play Favorites
To date researchers have discovered more than ten thousand different phytonutrients and each plant-food contains its own unique set. Keep in mind there is no such thing as one single best “superstar” phytonutrient so you can’t just play favorites. As is the case with vitamins and minerals phytonutrients don’t work solo; they work in synergy with other phytonutrients and other substances. For this reason supplements and foods fortified with single phytonutrients, such as isoflavone supplements processed from soy, are not helpful and not recommended.
Each one of the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of yet-undiscovered phytonutrients helps the others function biochemically in the food and in your body. To put this in practical terms, eating tomato sauce is far better than eating a food that has been chemically “boosted” with processed lycopene that has been isolated from the whole tomato or formed in some laboratory. This is because one tomato contains more than ten thousand different phytonutrients; lycopene is not the only player on the team!
For phytonutrients to be effective they need to be eaten as part of the whole food, the way nature designed. In fact, some studies even show harmful effects from taking isolated phytonutrients in supplement form. By far the best and safest way to get the full spectrum of these important disease-fighting and anti-inflammatory substances is to eat a varied plant-food rich diet.
What Do Phytonutrients Do?
LOTS! This is just a partial list….
• Some phytonutrients help cells repair themselves by stimulating the release of protective enzymes while other phytonutrients inhibit cancer-producing substances that can damage cells.
• Other phytonutrients help remove toxins and reduce the impact of living in a polluted world. For example, some phytonutrients help prevent damage by carcinogens such as ultraviolet radiation, tobacco smoke, and environmental pollutants.
• Phytonutrients also act like antioxidants and prevent oxidative damage that can accelerate the aging process (when the phytonutrient repair team can stay ahead of the damage by reducing oxidation, it is believed degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis are much less likely to establish themselves.)
• Many different types of phytonutrients found in all plant-based foods have potent immune-supporting and anti-inflammatory benefits too, and are therefore especially important for anyone with an inflammatory condition (such as MS, allergies, arthritis, fibromyalgia, eczema, acne, etc.)
Name Dropping.…Popular Phytonutrients You Might Recognize
Some of the best known phytonutrients are the carotenoids, flavonoids, and isoflavones. Carotenoids are yellow, orange, and red pigment in fruits and vegetables. Interestingly, dark green leafy vegetables are rich in the carotenoid beta carotene but the usual yellow color is masked by chlorophyll, the green pigment that converts sunlight into energy. Flavonoids are reddish pigments found in red grape skins and citrus fruits and isoflavones can be found in peanuts, lentils, soy, and other legumes.
In general, the more colorful a food is the more phytonutrients it contains, which is why you want to eat a kaleidoscope of colors. While there is nothing wrong with unrefined plant foods like whole grain brown rice and white or gold potatoes, black rice and purple potatoes are an even healthier choice simply because they have more phytonutrients.
Here are some of the more well-known phytonutrients and the mostly very colorful foods you’ll find these substances in:
• Allicin: garlic, onions
• Anthocyanins: wild blueberries, bilberries, black berries,
• Beta cryptozanthin: tangerines, papaya, oranges, peaches, mangoes, nectarines
• Carotenoids (alpha carotene, beta carotene, and lutein): carrots, cantaloupe, papaya, pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes, broccoli, dried apricots, asparagus, kale, green leafy vegetables, peppers
• Elegiac acid: Strawberries
• Flavonoids: soy, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cruciferous vegetables, citrus fruits, red grapes, onions
• Genistein: soy products
• Indoles: cruciferous vegetables
• Isoflavones: legumes including beans, peas, and lentils, soy products
• Lignans: nuts and seeds, flaxseeds in particular
• Limonoids: citrus fruits
• Lycopene: tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato juice, guava, pink grapefruit, watermelon
• Sulforaphane: cruciferous vegetables
Real World Tips for Eating More Phytonutrients Each Day!
Since fruits and vegetables are among the best sources of phytonutrients, these foods should form the foundation of any healthy diet plan. I find one of the easiest ways to boost my fruit and veggie consumption is to follow the “plan” below—of course I don’t just eat fruits and vegetables, I add other foods to the basic “plan” (for example, for breakfast I might eat my fruit on top of a hot quinoa cereal or as a side dish to sprouted whole grain bread smothered with raw almond butter, but the point is I make sure to eat my fruit…and veggies too!)
• Breakfast: Include one large serving of a fruit
• Lunch: Include either a very large raw salad OR an extra large serving (or 2!) of cooked vegetables or a vegetable soup (click HERE to check out one of my “go to” veggie soup recipes)
• Snack#1: Make a “green” smoothie shake that includes fruits AND green leafy vegetables
• Snack #2: (I don’t always eat 2 snacks a day, it depends on my activity level—but when I do eat a 2nd snack I include a fruit of some sort—even if it’s just ½ a Lara Bar)
• Dinner: If I didn’t eat a large salad for lunch I’ll have one with dinner…otherwise, I have a small salad and some cooked veggies with my dinner.
• Dessert: I always include fruit as part of my dessert!
P.S. Having a huge pot of vegetable soup on hand is a GREAT way to boost your phytonutrient intake…check out my Easy Vegetable Soup Recipe HERE.