Have you seen those two guys on TV in the pond filled with cranberries promoting the antioxidant power of cranberries? We all assume they must be good for us. Most people under-estimate the power of not only antioxidants, but phytonutrients in general.
The new buzz in health news is the power of a class of phytonutrients known as antioxidants. Every time I turn on the tube or check out the web, I see adds about phytonutrients known as antioxidants. Did you know that antioxidants are just one type of phytonutrient?
What are Phytonutrients?
Phytonutrients are not vitamins or minerals. Phytonutrients are certain organic components or compounds found in plants, and these components or compounds are believed to provide protective benefits that promote human health.
There are many different types of phytonutrients such as anthocyanidins ( a type of antioxidant found in blue and purple foods), glycoproteins, polysaccharides, ( essential sugars that protect the myelin sheath of our nerves and promote health in our digestive and immune systems), phytosterols (heart and arterial protecting compounds) and polyphenols ( a very powerful class of antioxidants) found in a variety of foods including brans, nuts, seeds, dried spices, fruits and vegetables .
· serve as antioxidants ( they protect cells from free radicals that cause aging and illness)
· enhance immune response ( they help elevate our ability to produce more immune cells such as Killer Cells and antibodies)
· enhance cell-to-cell communication
· alter estrogen metabolism
· convert beta-carotene to vitamin A
· cause cancer cells to die (apoptosis)
· repair DNA damage caused by smoking and other toxic exposures
· detoxify some carcinogens
So what does all of this mean to you and me?
It reinforces what our grandmothers have told us for years. Eating fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds and whole grains are good for us and can offer many health benefits.
Getting your phytonutrients from foods has a much more powerful effect than taking isolated phytonutrient or antioxidant supplements. Our bodies are designed to get nutrients from natural unprocessed foods. Antioxidants that exist together in their natural form, for example in rice bran, blueberries or spinach, have synergies that make them much more powerful than when consumed in supplement form.
Fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds also provide vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and fiber in addition to carbohydrates, proteins and heart healthy fats and oils.
If you are not eating at least 2 servings of fruits, 3 servings of vegetables, 4 servings of whole grains and 1 ounces of nuts and seeds daily you are robbing your body of essential nutrients required for vibrant health. The SAD (Standard American Diet) has made Americans one of the least healthy populations of all industrialized nations, yet we spend over twice the money per person on health care.
Make veggies, fruits, grains, beans, nuts and seeds a part of your daily diet. Your body will love you for it!
Wally’s Daily Dose