Health and nutrition studies show that plant foods, especially fruits and vegetables, are better for us than ever imagined, making what we eat even more important for overall health. For over a half century we have known that plants and vegetables are good for our health by promoting fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but in the last twenty years we have discovered that they are also loaded with disease busting agents called phytochemicals.
Plants produce these substances to protect themselves against a host of environmental threats, such as the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation to plant-eating parasites. It turns out that these same plant-protective substances are just as good for humans.
Several thousand phytochemicals have been identified so far, and they perform remarkable achievements in our bodies. Some people believe that the pharmaceutical industry can only dream of producing drugs capable of performing as effectively in our systems as phytochemicals do. Even more exciting is that scientists estimate that there are up to one hundred thousand of these chemicals still to be characterized.
Phytochemicals protect our bodies against disease in a variety of ways, but they are most valuable as antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and have wonderful detoxifying and immune boosting powers. If you think that you are getting these life-preserving chemicals from a supplement or a sports bar, be aware that the best are found in plant-based foods, namely fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.
Thus, a diet chock-full of plant foods not only provides sensory pleasure for your taste buds, but also helps ward off heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal diseases, cataracts, macular degeneration, as well as a host of cancers, thus aiding us overall in our health.
Because fruits and vegetables boast the highest concentration of phytochemicals, they are the ideal food group for a leaner look and better health overall. So much so, that it is worth taking a closer look at what some of these phytochemicals do for our bodies, and most especially, our health.
Although you may not have recognized them as phytochemicals, many of you are likely familiar with some of the more commonly known ones such as lycopene in tomatoes, anthocyanin in blueberries and raspberries, and sulforaphane in broccoli. Antioxidants are scavengers of rogue molecules called free radicals, which run around in our bodies initiating a cascade of damaging oxidation. Lycopene, found in tomatoes, is one of the potent antioxidants fighting off free radicals.