If someone tells you to “eat your vegetables,” they might be on to something good: Science has proven time and again that vegetables hold the key to building a healthy body.
According to an article in Archives of Medicine, foods which originated from plants contain so-called “protective chemicals” which are composed of phytonutrients or phytochemicals. What’s more, there are about 100 of these in just one serving of vegetables – making a person who regularly consumed vegetables less likely to contract viruses and develop illnesses.
The study is centered on the significance of eating foods with high phytonutrients value to keep the body healthy. Essentially, it states that a more plant-based diet is beneficial to decrease the risk of disease. Phytochemicals can be found in a variety of plants and give different effects to the body.
For example, red foods are known for having lycopene. Vegetables like tomatoes and beets are helpful in reducing the risk of heart disease and prostate cancer. Green vegetables typically have lutein and zeaxanthin which are often related to supporting good eyesight and a healthy heart.
Blue and purple foods are good sources of anthocyanins believed to aid in fighting off cancer while White vegetables, like cauliflower, have sulforaphane that helps protect against cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.
Researchers also said that phytonutrients have elements that help reduce inflammation, remove toxins in the body and aid in balancing one’s hormonal levels, adding that “Phytochemicals have an antioxidant effect that protects cells from cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as from urinary tract infections, rheumatoid arthritis, and reduced immunity.”
It is highly recommended by the authors of the study to incorporate different kinds and colors of vegetables and fruits in one’s diet to create optimized health.
Phytonutrients in details
Phytonutrients, or phytochemicals, are chemicals that the plant produces to stay healthy. Scientists estimate that there are around 4,000 phytochemicals, and plants accumulate them through their colors. In terms of its effect on humans, phytonutrients are widely known for being effective antioxidants and preventing inflammation. In addition, they help protect your cells from cardiovascular diseases and keep you away from urinary tract infections, rheumatoid arthritis, and reduced immunity. (Related: How Phytonutrients and Bio-Energy Benefit the Human Body.)
In particular, phytonutrients are divided into three categories.
- Polyphenols are naturally occurring chemicals that act as antioxidants to protect our bodies from free radical damage that comes from exposure to pollution and smoking, among others.
- Isoflavones are phytonutrients that are mainly found in soybeans that have an estrogen-like effect on the body. Researchers also say these can aid in protecting the body from hormone-dependent cancers.
- Carotenoids consist of nutrients that decrease a person’s risk of disease, in particular, certain cancers and eye disease.
Phytonutrients have diverse effects on human body. According to Louis Premkumar, a professor at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, researchers are yet to determine exactly how these chemical works and how exactly they affect our bodies. He also revealed that it’s difficult to say which specific phytonutrient is responsible for a certain health benefit, adding each plant has a unique and diverse biochemical composition.
However, if Premkumar was sure about one thing, it’s the fact that a meal plan high on phytonutrients helps ward off illnesses.
“For example, Seventh-day Adventists, with their pure vegetarian diet, have a lower incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancers; Kuna Indians in Panama, who consume large quantities of unprocessed cocoa-containing beverages, show lower incidence of heart disease,” he added.