NUTRITION CORNER: Researches reveal the many health benefits of phytonutrients

Our lifestyle and eating habits have changed with the times. Whereas life has been simple before and foods were cooked in the homes, nowadays, malls and fast food chains galore where families can eat any food they want, mostly spicy, salty and fatty.  As a result, illness and diseases proliferate, with the culprit pointed to our diet.

With the staggering mortality rates as a result of the emergence of serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer, scientists have focused their studies and researches on nutrition and prevention.

In the past several years, people have also come to value more their health and appreciate the nutritional and health benefits that they can get from vegetables, fruits, dairy products, meat and other foods.

More and more researches show the importance of phytonutrients to our health. Though phytonutrients are not considered essential nutrients, scientists are discovering that they provide health benefits that can help prevent the development of a myriad of conditions and diseases.

Phytonutrients or phytochemicals literally means nutrients derived from plants. They are the organic components in plants that keep the body healthy. Their function is  similar to that of vitamins, they help the body fight off diseases. Rich sources of phytonutrients are fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and green teas.

Numerous studies have revealed that phytonutrients are potent antioxidants that can neutralize the damage done by highly reactive chemical substances called free radicals that can lead to premature aging and disease. Their main role is to diminish the negative effects and numbers of free radicals found in our blood. The free radicals have a negative impact on our body, causing cells to become weak and less active. Antioxidants help cell regeneration by eliminating the free radicals, thus keeping our bodies highly immune to outside diseases.

Certain anti-oxidants in fruits and vegetables include carotenes in mangoes, carrots, spinach; lycopene in tomatoes, grapefruit, watermelons; anti-oxidant vitamins like Vitamin A, E, and C in large numbers of herbs, vegetables and fruits.

According to studies, phytonutrients have anti-mutagenic and immunity boosting functions and prevent certain cancers, slow down brain aging and maintain healthy vision.

Today’s fast paced world allows us less and less time for  proper nutrition. Health authorities say phytonutrients provide the crucial link between health and nutrition. We need therefore to follow a diet that includeds a significant amount of fruits and vegetables that are rich in phytonutrients to sustain our busy lifestyle and stay healthy.#