You hear and read about them from TV and printed advertisements. They’re not vitamins, they’re not minerals but nutrition experts rave about them. For years, scientists have been buzzing about phytonutrients – those vibrantly colored plant compounds. They’re known to guard against the four main diseases in western countries – cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and hypertension. Though phytonutrients are not yet classified as essential to our health like vitamins and minerals (that’s why some people refer to them as phytochemicals), they appear to have many benefits for our overall health, both in general and for specific conditions.
Over the years, lots of phytonutrients have been ID’d and all of them do not disappoint.
Here’s how some phytonutrients work:
Pterostilbene, a potent antioxidant, has scientists buzzing about its amazing cancer-fighting and cholesterol-lowering ability. Studies have shown that pterostilbene have the same effect as the drugs ciprofibrate in lowering cholesterol and metformin in lowering blood glucose levels while simultaneously raising insulin and hemoglobin levels to near normal levels. Blueberries are rich in Pterostilbene.
Beta-cryptoxantin, an antioxidant found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, lowers the risks of developing inflammatory arthritis to almost 50 percent. Fruits such as yellow apples, apricots, cantaloupe, cape gooseberries, yellow figs, grapefruits, golden kiwifruits, lemon and mangoes are concentrated with this carotenoid.
Phytosterols does not only protect the heart and prevents cholesterol absorption by 40 percent, it also provides protection against the three most common cancer – breast, prostate and colon. Additionally, even after cancer has developed, it also helps in shrinking or slowing the growth of tumors, specially when taken in large doses. Pistachio nuts and sunflower seeds are rich phytosterols.
Resveratrol is known as the “fountain of youth”. It increases energy levels, lowers blood sugar, has anti-aging benefits, extends life and is an anti-inflammatory compound. Resveratrol is most abundant and potent in red wine and grapes. Minute quantities can also be found in peanuts. Some people simply drink a glass or two of red wine a day in order to enjoy its benefits but scientists recommend taking Resveratrol supplements is the best way to take advantage of its benefits. Resveratrol supplements made from Japanese Knotweed are also known to provide the benefits of hundreds, even thousands, of bottles of red wine in every pill.
Anthocyanins and Ellagitannins, phenols found in strawberries, prevent the oxidative damage that may cause cancer, heart diseases, and other degenerative diseases. Both prevents the clogging of the arteries that causes heart attacks and strokes. Anthocyanins also have brain-boosting properties that prevents and delays the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. It also can sharpen memory and and clear up an occasional case of “brain fog.”
Sulforaphane does not only reduce the risk of diabetes, heart diseases and cancer but also gives a younger-looking skin and healthier libido. It is found in cruciferous vegetables and dark leafy greens.
Most sources of these phytonutrients are best not cooked because they can get easily get destroyed or removed by modern processing methods (including cooking). Industrially processed foods likely contain fewer phytonutirients (and less beneficial) than unprocessed foods (except Lycopene, which may be concentrated in processed foods such as ketchup and pasta sauce).