For optimal health and to really help reduce inflammation, you need lots and lots of phytonutrients from a mix of all sorts of different plant foods. Every single day.
Without a doubt if all of the fruits and vegetables you consumed were organic that would undoubtedly be best because organic produce has more of what your body needs (phytonutrients!) and less of what it doesn’t need (toxins!)
But what if you truly can’t afford organic produce? We will get to that in a bit, but first just a bit more about the importance of phytonutrients.
Some of the Best Phytonutrients
Although each phytonutrient plays a special role in promoting health and slowing the aging process, some are more well-known and more thoroughly studied than others.
Here are some examples of just a few of the more well-known phytonutrients that exist, the foods they are found in, and what they can do for you:
CHLOROPHYLL: This is the green pigment abundant in green vegetables. Chlorophyll carries oxygen to our red blood cells, helping fight off disease. In cancer studies, it reduced carcinogens binding to DNA and diminished metastasis. It also has critical antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
CAROTENOIDS:These are naturally occurring colorful compounds with potent antiaging properties. There are hundreds of different carotenoids but some of the more familiar ones are alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin. Carotenoids are found in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including those colored orange (carrots, apricots, squash, and sweet potatoes), green (spinach, kale, and collards) and pink-red (tomatoes, guava, and grapefruit).
CAPSAICIN: This is the active compound in chili peppers. Capsaicin has been widely studied for its pain-reducing effects and cardiovascular benefits. It has also been shown to assist with weight loss by increasing thermogenesis, the rate at which your body burns calories at the cellular level, and decreasing appetite.
FLAVONOIDS: This group of phytonutrients has potent antioxidant properties, helps prevent blood clotting, and offers protection against heart disease. They are also believed to protect veins and help prevent cataracts and even boost mood. Foods particularly rich in flavonoids are green tea, wine, apples, chocolate, and pomegranates.
GLUCOSINOLATES: These phytonutrients help activate enzymes that detoxify the liver. Glucosinolates are found in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower.
ISOFLAVONES: These plant compounds are considered to be natural selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) that partially inhibit the activity of excess human estrogens. Isoflavones are believed to play a role in protecting against hormone-sensitive cancers, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer, and also offer protection from osteoporosis. Isoflavones can be found in soy beans, peanuts, chickpeas, fava beans, alfalfa, and all members of the legume family.
LIGNANS: These are potent antioxidants that fight free-radical damage and offer protection against hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast, ovarian, uterine, prostate, and colon cancer. Flaxseeds are by far the richest source of lignans but these phytonutrients can also be found in sunflower seeds, cashews, sesame seeds, and peanuts.
Our Produce Is Not What It Used To Be…
Ninety-eight percent of Americans do not eat the recommended 7-13 servings a day of disease-fighting and anti-inflammatory phytonutrient-rich fruits and vegetables they should. Our Clean Cuisine Challenge addresses this issue and by the end of the 8-weeks we promise you will be among the two percent of people who eat more than the recommended amount. But unfortunately this still might not be enough to obtain maximum phytonutrient protection as our produce is not nearly as nutrient-rich as it used to be. A disturbing study published in the Journal of American College of Nutrition in 2004 looked at 43 different crops and showed a decline in the nutrient content of up to 38% over the last 50 years. (1)
Phytonutrient Supplements Fill the Nutrient Gap When Choosing Organic is Not Possible (or Not Affordable)
Although it is not essential to supplement as part of the Challenge, we highly recommend you consider taking a “whole food” based phytonutrient supplement every day, especially if you are not going to be eating all of your fruits and vegetables organic.
Keep in mind organic fruits and vegetables are not only richer in vitamins and minerals as compared to conventional produce, they also have more phytonutrients. If you were able to eat an abundance of organic fruits and vegetables then the phytonutrient supplement might not be so important. But, since we recognize that it is both extremely costly and often highly inconvenient to eat only organic fruits and vegetables we think a phytonutrient supplement is a good compromise as a cost-effective way to boost critically important phytonutrient intake. A good “whole food” based phytonutrient supplement should cost between $1.00 and $1.50 or so a day. (Note: Organic produce not only contains more phytonutrients but also less pesticides and toxins; later in the Challenge we will show you how to reduce your exposure to toxins as well as how certain phytonutrients strengthen your body’s natural detoxification capabilities.)
Unlike with vitamins and minerals, you cannot overdose on a “whole foods” based phytonutrient supplement made with the whole fruit or vegetable because these plant-based “supplements” are basically dehydrated fruit and vegetable powders and they contain the “whole” fruit or vegetable rather than isolated phytonutrients.
As we have discussed, phytonutrients play a critical role in reducing oxidative stress, slowing the aging process and reducing inflammation. So the more of them you can consume the better.
Again, please make special note we are not supportive of taking isolated phytonutrient supplements because you would never find just one single phytonutrient in any fruit, vegetable, herb or spice. Every plant food comes packaged with hundreds of different phytonutrients and these phytonutrients work synergistically to enhance your health and fight disease. You can’t simply isolate one individual phytonutrient and just take it in pill form. Nature doesn’t work like that.
Recommended Phytonutrient Supplements:
Many phytonutrient supplements exist, but Juice Plus+ is the only one we are aware of that has substantial clinical research to back it up. However, Barlean’s Greens, Green Vibrance, Amazing Grass Green Superfood and Nature Plus You Organic SuperGreens are all excellent choices also. (NOTE: Mixing lemon juice with your phytonutrient booster can help cut the taste of the greens.)
1. Davis D, Epp M, Riordan H. Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crop, 1950-1999. Journal of American College of Nutrition. Vol. 23(6): 2004:669-682.