These compounds are referred to as phytonutrients or phytochemicals. Not only do they protect the plant, but nature has designed them to give us ammunition to prevent and fight off diseases in our body. Scientists are constantly discovering more and more important facts about phytonutrients. They are known to fight directly against viruses and bacteria, as well as promote a healthy immune system and help to fight the process of aging.
Did you know there are substances in broccoli sprouts that sweep toxins out of cells? There is a material in nuts that can help prevent damage to cells' DNA...there are certain phytonutrients that can inhibit the activation of specific cancer genes...try to find this power in a pill bottle!
If you are still not convinced, beta-carotene, (orange fruits and vegetables), help give your skin a glow and carotenoids can reduce your risk for breast cancer. The silica in cucumbers is great for connective tissue and collagen, (the elasticity of your skin). Lycopene, found not only in tomatoes, but also in watermelon, pink grapefruit, and papaya, helps to prevent and treat various cancers, heart disease, cataracts and much more. I could go on and on about how amazing phytonutrients are for protecting your body against disease and illness. Every time I read one of these studies regarding phytonutrients, it just reinforces the reasons why a Whole Food Plant Based diet is the answer to all kinds of health issues. The more variety of fruits and vegetables we eat, the more protection we have.
One of the most important functions of phytonutrients is their antioxidant capacity. Antioxidants help fight free radicals in the body, which damage the cells and speed up the aging process. A study from UCLA of more than 17,500 adults showed that the consumption of raw vegetables correlates with higher levels of folic acid, vitamin C and E, lycopene and alpha and beta-carotene in the bloodstream. Another study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that apples and pears help to fight heart disease due to their high levels of flavonoids, which are anti-inflammatory and support a healthy heart.
The problem with phytonutrients, however, is that most are heat sensitive and become less available to the body when cooked. So, if you eat cooked veggies and think you are getting lots of phytonutrients and vitamins, think again. Many of these valuable elements have been destroyed. One of the ways fresh organic (when you can), raw food helps you get to and maintain your perfect weight is that is is full of nutrients, which most people are typically starved of. When eating a diet of mostly cooked food, people often find themselves hungry, because their bodies need not more calories, but more nutrients.
I really do believe most of America is overweight and undernourished because our Standard American Diet, (SAD), is so void of all these extremely healthful phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Our bodies are "starving" for these nutrients but the typical diet most of us eat is just lacking all these wonderful powerhouses.
So, today, (why not today?), eat more fruits and vegetables and less processed, packaged, artificial "foods". The more nutrient-dense foods you eat, the less room you will have for foods that are not giving you any value, and come packaged with all kinds of empty calories. My goal each day is to eat as much "raw" food as I can giving me the benefits of all those phytonutrients..giving me a strong immune system, (I think mine is made of steel!!) and protecting me from all kinds of diseases from even starting. Again, as I love to remind everyone of....you can't buy this kind of protection in a pill bottle...it's just not possible.
Never underestimate the Power of Mother Nature......