The Rainbow Connection: Phytonutrients Preventing Disease


“Phytonutrient” means literally a plant-based nutrient. Mother Nature provides us with an abundance of disease-fighting, tasty, and colorful foods, all of which pack a powerful punch of flavor and health benefits. The phytonutrients in plants work to protect them against insects, bacteria, ultraviolet light, and extreme weather. In much the same way they protect plants, phytonutrients protect you.

One class of phytochemical, known as polyphenols, has been touted as a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants destroy free radicals—components in the body that destroy healthy cells and can lead to disease. The American Cancer Society even promotes the consumption of antioxidant-rich foods, stating that one type of polyphenol (flavonoids) acts “as antioxidants and may protect against some cancers and heart disease.”

Dr. Dean Ornish published an editorial in the American Journal of Cardiologydemonstrating that plants contain more than 100,000 phytonutrients. This is one of the reasons nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day are recommended. He states that phytonutrients may account for the benefits of whole plant foods in cancer natural treatments. Dates, berries, strawberries, chai tea and green tea are examples of foods high in phytonutrients. It’s important to note that dairy, however, may block the absorption of phytonutrients. On average, plant foods have about 64 times more antioxidants than animal foods.

Get Colorful!

The basic rule of thumb when choosing your fruits and vegetables? Select from a rainbow of colors! The deep colors give fruits and vegetables their antioxidant and disease-fighting powers, and different colors contain different benefits. You simply can’t go wrong if you eat a variety of citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables, allium vegetables, and purple, red, and green produce.

Four Categories of Phytos:

Eating a diet rich in colorful produce means incorporating the following varieties of phytonutrients:

  • Anthocyanins – found in deep purple or red-colored fruits such as cherries, blueberries, strawberries, red grapes, and blackberries. These have been shown to boost metabolism and short-term memory.
  • Carotenoids – found in yellow and orange-colored fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, peaches, carrots, and pumpkin. These are powerful immune system boosters and can also improve eyesight. The antioxidant value of carotenoids makes them impressive disease-fighters.
  • Catechins – found in apples and green or black tea. Catechins help to burn abdominal fat (the dangerous type of fat) and aid in weight loss.
  • Flavonoids – found in berries, pomegranates, red onions, the skin of apples and red grapes. These have been increasingly linked to slowing the growth of cancer cells.

The evidence supporting the consumption of phytonutrient-rich produce is impressive. Tap into the power of whole, organic food to reveal anti-aging and disease-fighting properties. You won’t find anything in pill form that can equate to the impressive health benefits found in a rainbow of garden fresh produce.


Related Links

Eat to Defeat Cancer:

Natural News – “The Health Benefits of Phytochemicals”:

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