Researchers have found that a plant-based diet may help prevent, treat, or reverse some of our leading causes of death, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. Studies of plant-based diets have shown, for example, 90 percent reductions in angina attacks within just a few weeks, and plant-based diet intervention groups have reported improved digestion, increased energy, and better sleep, and significant improvement in their physical functioning, general health, vitality, and mental health. Studies have also shown plant-based eating can improve not only body weight, blood sugar levels, and ability to control cholesterol, but also emotional states, including depression, anxiety, fatigue, sense of well-being, and daily functioning.
How can one diet do all that? Because plant-based foods contain more than 100,000 different disease-preventing nutrients—more specifically, more than 100,000 phyto-nutrients, phyto for the Greek word for plant. Blueberries have anthocyanins that may help with memory. Tomatoes are rich in the red pigment lycopene, which may help target heart disease and cancer, and ginger has gingerols that may help with hypertension. Intake of citrus has been associated with reduced stroke risk perhaps thanks to its phytonutrient hesperidin, which appears to increase blood flow throughout the body, including the brain. The list goes on. And we can’t just take these phytonutrients in a pill. When it comes to food, the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts. Beta carotene pills, for example, may actually increase cancer risk, as opposed to the whole carrot, which may lower our risk. (Who could swallow 100,000 pills a day anyway?)
Hundreds of phytonutrients have been found to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity. Six months of consuming the phytonutrients curcumin, the bright-yellow pigment in turmeric, and quercetin, which is found naturally in such fruits and vegetables as red onions and grapes, appeared to decrease the number and size of polyps by more than half in patients with a hereditary form of colorectal cancer. And many phytonutrients may help block the formation of new blood vessels that feed tumors, and others appear to defend against toxic invaders. Researchers found that phytonutrients in such plant foods as fruits, vegetables, tea leaves, and beans can block the effects of dioxins in vitro, for example. Having phytonutrient levels in the bloodstream achieved by eating three apples a day or a tablespoon of red onion appeared to cut dioxin toxicity in half. As these phytonutrient effects lasted only a few hours, we should make sure to eat healthy foods at every meal.
Image Credit: Joshua Resnick © 123RF.com. This image has been modified.
Popular Videos for Phytonutrients
All Videos for Phytonutrients
Avocados Lower Small Dense LDL Cholesterol
What are the effects of oatmeal, walnuts, extra virgin olive oil, and avocados on LDL cholesterol size?
Are Avocados Good for Your Cholesterol?
Can guacamole lower your cholesterol as well as other whole-food fat sources such as nuts, or is it just avocado industry spin?
Exclusion Diets for Eczema
Infants of mothers randomized to cut out eggs, milk, and fish were significantly less likely to have eczema even years later.
Topical Honey for Canker Sores
What works better against aphthous ulcers? Honey applied with a Q-tip three times a day after meals was compared head-to-head against an over-the-counter soothing pain-relieving paste and a prescription steroid cream.
The Best Food for High Cholesterol
Are the apparently amazing benefits of amla—dried indian gooseberries—too good to be true?
Are Avocados Healthy?
Avocado consumption can improve artery function, but what effect might guacamole have on cancer risk?
Is White Rice a Yellow-Light or Red-Light Food?
Do the health benefits of rice consumption outweigh any potential risk from the arsenic contamination?
How to Lower Lead Levels with Diet: Breakfast, Whole Grains, Milk, Tofu?
Get any food in your stomach within a few hours of lead exposure and you can suppress the absorption by 90% or more, but which foods are particularly protective?
How to Treat Endometriosis with Seaweed
Five cents worth of seaweed a day may dramatically improve a major cause of disability and compromised quality of life among women.
Black Raspberry Supplements Put to the Test
Less than half of herbal supplements tested from a dozen companies were found to be authentic.
Chocolate & Stroke Risk
Dark chocolate is pitted against milk chocolate in a test of artery function.
Should We All Take Aspirin to Prevent Cancer?
The aspirin compounds naturally found in plant foods may help explain the lower cancer rates among those eating plant-based diets.