Eating your fruits and vegetables is imperative to good health. But, why?
Part of the reason are the thousands of natural chemicals they contain called phytonutrients or phytochemicals.
For plants, phytonutrients help protect them from threats they may encounter in their environment – such as germs, fungi, and bugs. In people, phytonutrients help prevent disease and keep the body functioning properly. They do this mainly by preventing oxidation and decreasing inflammation.
Oxidation can lead to a state of oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body’s proficiency at counteracting or detoxifying free radicals.
Oxidative stress is associated with many different diseases: Parkinson’s disease, cancers, fatigue syndrome, atherosclerosis, and many more.
Inflammation is part of the immune response: it’s a defense mechanism in the body used to recognize damaged cells, irritants, and pathogens and remove them to pave the way for the healing process to begin.
Problems arise when inflammation becomes chronic, or long-term. Chronic inflammation, like oxidative stress, is linked to several diseases and conditions, including some cancers and arthritis.
In this article, you’ll find 7 chronic diseases phytochemicals help prevent.
Cardiovascular disease is an all-encompassing term referring to diseases and conditions that feature narrowed or blocked blood vessels. The effect of this blockage can be heart attacks, chest pain, or stroke.
These diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in developed countries. Oxidative stress and inflammation are posited as two of the main drivers of cardiovascular disease.
Flavonoids, a type of phytonutrient, have been shown to protect the cells usually damaged in cardiovascular disease against oxidative stress. Research suggest other phytochemicals decrease the reactivity of macrophages – cells of the immune system that can contribute to damage – limiting the harmful effects of the immune response.
In 2016, 39% of adults were considered overweight and 13% obese; making obesity a major public health concern with substantial economic and social costs.
Defenses against oxidative stress are lowered in obese people, putting them at risk for many diseases. Chronic, low grade inflammation may be a risk factor for developing obesity in the first place.
Phytonutrients, especially those with strong anti-inflammatory properties, are supremely vital in fighting obesity and its harmful side-effects.
Diabetes is a condition characterized by increased circulating blood sugar. This increase occurs as a result of insulin insufficiency (Type 1) or decreased insulin sensitivity (Type 2).
The increase in blood sugar associated with diabetes is accompanied by an increase in oxidative stress. Inflammation plays a vital role in the development of obesity-related insulin resistance leading to type-2 diabetes.
Cancer is so prevalent worldwide that it accounts for nearly one in six deaths; making nearly every family touched by cancer.
The free radicals that contribute to oxidative stress can initiate cancer at various different stages in its development. The antioxidant capabilities of certain phytochemicals prevent some of these processes from occurring.
Getting old isn’t a disease. But some deteriorating biological processes that come along with it can leave a person vulnerable to diseases they were better protected from when they were younger.
Free radical production increases with age, making it easier to get into a situation of oxidative stress. Inflammation also increases with age as the body attempts to mitigate accumulating damage within tissues.
For these reasons, getting adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables becomes more and more important the older you are.
Coffee, which has high levels of antioxidant phytochemicals, reduces motor and cognitive deficits associated with age. And the phytonutrient epigallocatechin gallate extends lifespan by improving age-associated inflammation.
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition known for its associated memory loss and cognitive decline: it’s the most common type of dementia.
Oxidative stress has been identified as playing a role in the development of the disease – partly because the brain is so vulnerable to oxidative stress. Within the brain there are high concentrations of free radicals and, compared to other tissues, the brain is relatively ill-equipped to prevent them from causing damage.
Studies of populations in several European countries, New Zealand, Australia, USA, and Canada suggest increased dietary flavonoids (a type of phytonutrient) are associated with lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory Bowel Disease includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. These are two diseases that involve disorders of the immune system.
How to make sure you get enough phytonutrients
Phytonutrients are critical for maintaining the normal functioning of the body and preventing many diseases that can be quite debilitating.
Best case scenario, you are eating enough fruits and vegetables on a daily basis to ensure you’re getting a variety of phytonutrients providing many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory processes.
If you don’t think you are, supplements that contain phytonutrients may be a good option for you. Please contact me and I can help you find one that will work for you.
There’s a good reason our parents always pushed us to eat our fruits and vegetables. And you know you just feel happier and healthier when you do.
As research supplies us with more knowledge we’re becoming aware that it’s not just about feeling good. The nutrients in plants serve important functions in preventing many serious chronic diseases.
If you’d like more information about phytonutrients, please contact me.
Be sure to follow the blog and find Healthy Wheys on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Have a great week!