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
Benefits of Grapes for Brain Health
Grape juice and whole grapes are put to the test for brain function, including cognitive decline in early Alzheimer’s.
For Flavonoid Benefits, Don’t Peel Apples
Peeled apples are pitted head-to-head against unpeeled apples and spinach in a test of artery function.
How to Cook Greens
Dark green leafy vegetables are the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. What’s the best way to prepare them?
Blueberries for a Diabetic Diet & DNA Repair
Blueberries are put to the test against insulin resistance, oxidation, and DNA damage.
Best Way to Cook Vegetables
Boiling, steaming, microwaving, air frying, and sous vide cooking are put to the test for nutrient retention.
Best Foods for Halitosis & Gingivitis
The best and worst foods for bad breath and gum inflammation.
Benefit of Dates for Colon Health
Seven dates a day for three weeks are put to the test in a randomized controlled trial.
Do Lutein Supplements Help with Brain Function?
Avocados, greens, and lutein and zeaxanthin supplements are put to the test for improving cognitive function.
Brain-Healthy Foods to Fight Aging
What is the best source of lutein, the primary carotenoid antioxidant in the brain?
Which Coffee Is Healthier: Light vs. Dark Roast?
Dark roast coffee is more effective than light roast coffee in reducing body weight.
Best Brain Foods: Greens & Beets Put to the Test
Cocoa and nitrite-rich vegetables, such as green leafies and beets, are put to the test for cognitive function.
Best Food for Periodontal Disease & Gingivitis
What would happen if you stopped brushing your teeth but ate healthier?