Featuring the Mighty Power of Phytonutrients.
How many colors of food do you have on your plate? You probably already eat vegetables every day but are you eating a variety of colors? Certain foods, particularly plant-based foods (vegetables, legumes, spices, nuts, whole grains) contain a substance called phytonutrients – natural chemicals that help to protect that particular plant against bacteria, viruses, bugs etc. and they’ve been shown to help protect us against chronic diseases.
Phytonutrients are thought to have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and cellular repair properties. Why are these qualities so important? We are virtually assaulted on a regular basis by oxidative stress and inflammation from inside our own bodies. This is a natural and healthy process but we can easily overwhelm our bodies with too much oxidative stress and inflammation because of exterior forces (foods, stress, chemicals etc.). When we eat anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant foods, we support our body’s repair on a cellular level and assist our bodies in restoring balance.
Phytonutrients come in almost all colors of the rainbow. Eat a variety every day. The Institute for Functional Medicine recommends aiming for one of two of each color per day.
Consider printing out the list below and taking it with you on your next grocery shop:
- Benefits: anti-cancer, brain health, liver health, immune system.
- Examples: grapes, plums, goji berries, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, rhubarb, tomato, cranberries, cherries, plums. apples, blood oranges, adzuki beans, kidney beans
*note try to avoid sweetened dried foods except in small quantities
- Benefits: anti-cancer, immune system, protection for heart disease, eye health
- Examples: bell pepper, cantaloupe, carrots, mango, nectarine, orange, papaya, pumpkin, squash (butternut, winter, acorn), sweet potato, yams, turmeric root
- Benefits: anti cancer, vascular health, eye health, anti-inflammatory, skin health
- Examples: banana, bell peppers, fresh corn, ginger root, lemon, pineapple, potato, summer squash, millet
- Benefits: anti-cancer, brain health, skin, heart and liver health, hormone balance, anti-inflammatory
- Examples: apples, green vegetables, green herbs, limes, pears
BLUE (and purple and black)
Benefits: anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, brain health, heart health
Examples: blueberries, black berries, boysenberries, cabbage, red kale, black rice, purple rice, red potatoes, prunes, raisins, black olive, eggplant.
WHITE (and tan and brown)
- Benefits: gut health, hormone balance, liver health, anti-microbial, anti-cancer, circulatory function, heart health, bone health
- Examples: beans (chickpeas, hummus, lentils), nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashew, flax, hemp, pumpkin (pepita), sesame, sunflower), onion, sauerkraut, black or white tea, whole grains (brown rice, barley, quinoa, spelt), cauliflower
*note: to enjoy the full phytonutrient benefit of your nuts, consume them raw and unsalted as much as possible
Eating a larger spectrum of foods (especially plants) is a first and essential step to improving your health. Supplements can be useful for deficiencies but try to get as many of your nutrients from foods. Remember, there is no substitute for real food in its natural form!
Until next time…
Jenny Kalina PA-C