How colourful is your diet?
So what are the health benefits phytonutrients provide us with?
- Phytonutrient consumption has been associated with an improved blood lipid profile. Circulating LDL cholesterol (the ‘bad’ low density kind, which can be deposited in our bloodvessels during times of inflammation) is decreased and less is oxidised. Aromatic plants (onions, leeks, garlic) contain sulphides and thiols which have this effect.
- Phytonutrients found in dark chocolate (polyphenols in cocoa), tomatoes (lycopene), green and black tea (polyphenols), whole grains rich in phytonutrients (oats, rye, red rice) are
just a few examples which have been found to have a positive impact on the circulatory system.
- They have also been associated with lowering blood pressure, improved blood vessel dilation and increase HDL (the ‘good’ cholesterol).
- Cruciferous veggies are renowned for their detoxification benefits which are important in the prevention of certain cancers and diseases.
- The phytonutrient sulforaphrane, found in abundance in broccoli is a powerful inducer of our livers own detoxification pathway – broccoli is possibly one of the world’s most powerful foods. Ellagic acid, found in raspberries, strawberries and walnuts has a similar effect on the liver, removing carcinogens before they are metabolised.
- Curcumin found in turmeric acts as an anti-inflammatory and may affect cancer metabolism and help rid toxic compounds which could otherwise lead to cancer. Because of this property, it is currently being researched as an aid for Alzheimer’s disease.
- Carotenoids (there are more than 600 of them!) work to neutralise free radicals which cause damage to cells (free radicals are caused by eating poor quality food, highly processedoils, air pollution, household toxins, to name a few). They are usually found in yellow/ orange plant matter and need to be consumed with a fat to be properly absorbed.
- Many phytonutrients in brightly coloured plants also appear to reduce inflammation and boost the immune system.
Improved vision and eye health
- Phytonutrient pigments lutein and zeaxathine found in kale or collard greens reduce the risk of glaucoma and have been shown to be protective against cataracts and macular degeneration. Various carotenoids have a similar effect.
- Phytonutrient anthocyanins found in blueberries, strawberries, black currents and black grapes can help improve vision.