The Secret Power of Plants: Phytonutrients
Plants hold within them incredible power. Nature has armed them with an arsenal of constituent chemicals that allow them to grow and thrive in even the most inhospitable environments, undaunted by constant attacks from pests, predators, and even ultraviolet radiation. Yet plants aren’t the only ones who can benefit from these gifts nature has bestowed upon them. Let’s look into plants’ phytonutrients and learn how you can use them to better your own health and well-being.
What Are Phytonutrients?
Also known as phytochemicals, phytonutrients are the chemical compounds that many plants produce to stay healthy. Some phytonutrients can help protect plants from attacks by insects, discourage grazing herbivores, or even reduce the damaging effects of the sun’s UV rays. These same chemicals can be used by our bodies to keep us healthy and promote better functioning of many of our physiological systems.
Unlike carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals, phytonutrients aren’t essential to life. As Unlock Food explains, they can still benefit human health through their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.
What Do They Do?
While there are hundreds of phytonutrients produced by plants, there are a few well-known ones that everyone should be striving to eat. These include resveratrol, rutin, and curcumin.
Resveratrol is a polyphenol found in high concentrations in red wine. It has been shown to have neuroprotective properties and increase cerebral blood flow. It can also suppress cancerous cells and even increase lifespan.
According to Erbology, the phytonutrient rutin is a wonderful antioxidant for the heart. Rutin helps your circulatory system function at its best, while assisting to prevent high blood pressure. It can also help diabetics keep their blood sugar and insulin in proper balance.
Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory compound that can lower your risk of heart disease, protect against cognitive decline, and increase the antioxidant capacity of your body. It has even been shown more effective than anti-inflammatory medications at helping people deal with rheumatoid arthritis.
How Can You Get More of Them?
In varying concentrations, phytonutrients are available in most edible plants. These compounds often give plants their bright pigmentation and strong tastes, so a good way to increase phytonutrient consumption is by eating large amounts of fruits, vegetables, and other plants with deep-hued colors and rich flavors and aromas.
University Health News says that some great sources of phytonutrients include grapes, blueberries, cranberries, peanuts, and cacao. You can also find high levels of these compounds in apples, figs, citrus fruit, green tea, and flavorful herbs and spices such as cumin, turmeric, cayenne, and black pepper.
Phytonutrients can protect your heart, brain, and joints from disease, all while extending your lifespan and making your food more flavorful and delicious. If you aren’t already eating a phytonutrient-based diet, it’s never too late to start.
Want to try a plant-based phytonutrient diet but don’t know where to start? Check out more info on the flexitarian diet and other interesting diets you can try.