by Ellen Blossman, PhD
Danger! Danger, Will Robinson! We are all Will Robinsons lost in a sea of information and misinformation about what is healthy for us.
Our national health is less than optimal, even though we have a top medical system. The CDC and the American Cancer Society have dire stats about heart disease, diabetes and cancer in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, one out of every two men and one out of every three women are at a lifetime risk of developing cancer.
So how can we reduce our chances of being one of these statistics from chronic diseases? We can modify our life style to include daily physical activity, contemplative practices, positive social interactions and a nutrient dense diet.
A nutrient dense diet is achieved by incorporating more vegetables and fruits. The plant kingdom provides us with phytochemicals to achieve an optimal healthy state.
The topic of my presentation in the 2016 Encourage Health Education Series is to address the role of phytochemicals in our health paradigm of micronutrients. Phytochemicals occur in smaller quantities than vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. However, phytochemicals are very powerful and protect our health.
The term phytochemical originates from a Greek word meaning plant chemical. Medicinal plants possess naturally occurring valuable phytochemicals. Plants use these chemicals to defend themselves against pests and other natural predators.
Additionally, current research has demonstrated that phytochemicals can protect and defend humans and animals from many diseases. Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and teas are rich sources of phytochemicals, also called phytonutrients.
While the traditional macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates) and the micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, fatty acids) are well known by the general public, phytochemicals are the “new kids” on the micronutrient block.
So why haven’t we heard much about phytochemicals before? When you read the labels of the ingredients on a food package wrapping, you probably will not find a list of the phytochemicals. However, everyone has heard about antioxidants in blueberries, right?
Scientists have estimated that there are over 4,000 known phytochemicals. Our technology has advanced so much that science is able to measure the molecular contents of substances with “forensic-like” machines that are used to identify the structural essence and measure the phytochemicals in our foods.
So why are phytochemicals important to you? Consider this: phytochemicals in the vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and teas help us overcome our present health deficiencies.
Known benefits of phytochemicals are their abilities to:
• Improve overall health and quality of life
• Provide building blocks for our immune system
• Repair unstable oxygen molecules that act as oxidants that damage cells and tissues
• Inhibit growth of cancer cells and block carcinogens
• Help rid the body of toxins, inflammation, and other harmful substances
• Exhibit anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-viral activities
• Support DNA and RNA replication
• Possess free radical quenching abilities
• Inhibit adverse side effects of synthetic drugs
With such positive benefits, you might be wondering where the phytochemical can be found in plants? Phytochemicals are found in the cellulose fibers and pulp of the plants. Are you throwing these parts away? Most juices discard these medicinal parts. Stick with whole foods and/or use a powerful blender to micronize the fiber and pulp in order to receive the nutrients.
As scientifically advanced as we are, we cannot top Mother Nature in producing all the health benefits that whole foods provide. Whole foods contain a variety of phytochemicals that work synergistically with each other in the same plant and with other plants. Some important phytochemicals are found in cilantro, onions, asparagus, walnuts, blueberries, strawberries, beets, red bell peppers, tomatoes, turmeric, ginger, kale, cinnamon, chocolate, mushrooms, mint, tea, cucumber, apples, brussels sprouts, garlic, etc.
My Encourage Health Education Series presentation will take place on Tuesday, June 21 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Auditorium of the Savannah Morning News, located at 1375 Chatham Parkway.
Come and hear how to “Eat Well and Boost Your Energy With Phytochemicals.”
Ellen Blossman, Ph.D., is a certified Health Coach from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and is certified in Food Healing Science from the Supreme Science Qigong Center. She is a member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners and a Professional Member of the International Center for Reiki Training.