First, what are Phytochemicals?
Most of us have heard of vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Phytochemicals are another category of plant components, that have important functions needed by the body.
Phytochemicals are fundamental to health, and are grossly lacking in the modern diet. They are best known for their antioxidant action that protects the cells from free radical damage. Green superfoods, and superfood fruits and vegetables, are the highest in protective, phytochemicals content. One of the most devastating reactions in the body is oxidation at a cellular level. This is what is caused by free radicals. It is like rust on a car.
- They have been connected to hardening of the arteries, cancer, aging and many other diseases.
Free radical damage
The following is taken directly from the website, “The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health”.
“Free Radicals are produced from normal cell metabolism and from external sources (pollution, cigarette smoke, radiation, medication).
When an overload of free radicals cannot be eliminated, they accumulate in the body. This creates a phenomenon called oxidative stress.
This process can play a major role in the development of illnesses such as:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Premature aging
- Autoimmune disorders
- Cancer and degenerative diseases
So, what are the benefits of Phytochemicals?
Phytochemicals are still obscure to most people. Not yet a familiar “household” word, like “vitamins and minerals”. But they should be.
There are thousands of these plant compounds! They help protect the plant from bacteria, fungus, bugs and more. Then, they bestow that protection onto us. Phytochemicals work with vitamins and minerals, to decrease the oxidation of our tissue. Many phytochemicals favor certain organs or systems of the body, to keep them healthy.
Some important examples of phytochemicals
- lycopene – found in tomatoes and gives it the red color and has been shown to help protect our bodies from cancer.
- lutein and zeaxanthin – found in dark green leafy vegetables are important for the health of the eyes.
- carotenoids (like beta-carotene) – found in carrots and are of benefit to the eyes and skin.
- bioflavonoids – a subgroup of phytonutrients and are powerful antioxidants. For instance, the pithy part of an orange that generally is discarded, is rich in bioflavanoids and works with vitamin C for tissue repair.
- sulforaphane – found in cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli. Studies have shown that this phytochemical reference substances in plants may help protect the body from cancer.
- polyphenols – found in berries, tomatoes, onions and other fruits, are known to have anti-inflammatory properties and are beneficial for the cardiovascular system.
There are many more and they are found only in plants!
How to get your phytochemicals
Fruits, vegetables and algae are full of these micro-nutrients. Heating and processing destroys them. So raw or minimally heated, is the best.
When eating a whole food, we don’t have to worry about nutrient combinations. Nature takes care of that. BUT because of the depletion of soil, variety becomes imperative! So eat a varied diet, and consider a variety of superfoods. In my opinion, superfood supplements are critical additions to our diet.
Nutrient dense food, is essential to a healthy immune system and VIBRANT energy!. Nature has created a balance of these nutrients within the plant. A VARIETY of whole foods in our diet is fundamental to maintain health. The modern diet has become nutritionally empty and disease has become rampant.
So, do we need Superfoods? The answer would seem to be a resounding–YES!
What are the best sources?
Our physical body is a product of the earth and maintained by the earth.
Plant life is abundant in many varieties on this planet, for good reason. WE cannot get everything we need from just one source. We need variety and herbal reference materials.
Here are some High nutrient foods to be reckoned with
- Fresh fruits and vegetables (organic is best). Raw or lightly steamed
- Fresh juices and smoothies packed with raw greens
- Raw nuts
- Micro-algae (like spirulina and chlorella)
- Superfoods like chia and maca
If these foods are foreign to you, start with perfect food in juice or a smoothie. And try to stay as close to nature as possible with your meals. Some examples are:
- baked potatoes, instead of fried potatoes or potato chips
- steamed fresh vegetables, instead of canned or frozen
- fresh vegetable soups
- salads made fresh, in advance, for ease. Add them to your meal or have as a snack.
Consider Superfood powders for ease and convenience
These are my favorites. From the standpoint of quality, concentration, variety and ease, they can make easy additions to our busy lifestyle.
- They are healthy snacks in-between meals, or quick meals that you may have skipped
- They can be easily taken a short time before a meal as well, and curb the apatite
- They can be higher in protein like Raw Meal
- Or higher in fiber like Chia seed.