The science and opinions on how to eat are very confusing! Reading Michael Pollan’s book “In Defence of Food“, he states that science and industry have created a “needless complication around eating.” I couldn’t agree more! He believes that all we need to know is: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Practically the only thing everyone does agree on in the world of nutrition is that eating a daily abundance of fresh and colorful plant-based foods reduces your risk from almost every known disease.
So why are plant based foods so good for us?
The natural compounds found in plant-based foods that give plants their rich pigment, as well as their distinctive taste and smell are called phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are substances in plants (‘phyto’ means ‘plant’) that have been shown to contain preventative compounds that are vital in our quest for health. Foods that contain phytonutrients are sometimes referred to as functional foods because they contain powerful compounds that are keeping us from getting ill.
Phytonutrients are manufactured as part of a plants immune system, they are a plants’ own fire department.Plants produce phytonutrients to protect themselves in response to stressors they encounter in nature such as contaminants in the soil or air, damage from insects, animals or humans, drought, heat and disease.More than 25,000 phytonutrients are found in plant foods and scientists are discovering more daily! When we eat plants, phytonutrients protect our bloodstream, cells, tissues, membranes, skin, organs and immune functions from the onslaught of synthetic chemicals like toxins, chemical intruders, bacteria, pesticides, viruses, microbes and free radicals.
Plants have given us a great gift, thousands of disease-preventing compounds are made by their immune system to support our immune system!
We all evolved on the same planet in the same environment and so these nutrients produce the same kind of response in us. Phytonutrients are found in fruits, herbs, spices, nuts, sprouts, vegetables and seeds.
Essential nutrients necessary for life are classified as water, air, sunlight, protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Phytonutrients have not yet been officially named as necessary for sustaining life …but we know better! These healing chemicals may, in the end, be more important than the protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals they contain.
Phytonutrients work together as a team to provide a more potent and protective punch when we eat them as whole foods.
By eating a wide variety of fruits, herbs, spices, nuts, sprouts, vegetables and seeds, you will obtain all the compounds that you need, to be healthy. A single fruit or vegetable may contain more than 100 different types of healing phytonutrients that basically make up the immune system of the plant.
The thousands of phytonutrients are categorized into families including carotenoids, catechins, sulfurophane, flavonoids, lipoic acid, phytoestrogens, polyphenols and many others.
Some are beautiful pigments that give plant foods their vibrant colors, others like sulphur compounds in onion or garlic, are responsible for strong odors and flavors.
Some of the names that you may be familiar with are:
- beta carotene
- ellagic acid
- and the list goes on and on!
Make your food as colorful and tasty as you can, eat a rainbow, let HALF your plate be plant based foods! It takes some play and creativity in the kitchen.
Your health and your taste buds will thank you!
Try some these phytonutrient rich recipes below!
Do it yourself Immune Spice Mixture
6 parts turmeric
3 parts ground cumin
3 parts ground coriander
6 parts ground fennel
1 part powdered, dry ginger
1 part ground black pepper
1⁄4 part ground cinnamon
Add this spice combination to your meat or vegetable dishes!
Eat a Rainbow salad
2 raw medium shredded beets
1/4 red shredded cabbage
2 large shredded carrots
1/4 white shredded cabbage
2 pears cut into small pieces
1 cup chopped walnut halves
2 handfuls fresh mint, chopped
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Add walnuts and mint to the veggies and toss with the dressing!
Be Green Juice
3 de-stemmed kale leaves
3 stalks celery
1 handful parsley
1 handful romaine lettuce
1 one-inch piece ginger, peeled
2 organic green apples
Juice these ingredients and drink!