When I first entered the Wellness arena I became fast friends with Dr. Lendon Smith, MD. of Portland, Oregon. I learned much about Wellness from this world renowned pediatrician. He was well-known for the health of the babies born to his patients. Early in our relationship I learned that he had his patients on their office visits sniff from eleven small bottles filled with what he termed “trace elements.” With this process he was able to determine which nutrient elements they needed in their diets. He would then make recommendations for them based upon the results of his testing procedure. Late one evening as we sat in his office discussing a book he was prefacing on Vitamin C for Dr. Linus Pauling, Lendon let me know that what he had called “trace elements” were now being called “phytonutrients.” What he actually said to me was, “Phil, Are you getting your phytonutrients?” That evening he explained to me that these new phytonutrients were not to be confused with essential vitamins and minerals but were trace minerals and elements that the body needs to function at its best. He went on to say that phytonutrients is a rather broad term given to a wide variety of compounds and chemicals produced by plants. Today, years after that initial conversation, there have been thousands of phytonutrients discovered and some have been researched. By far thousands of them remain to be studied closely for the ways in which they serve the human body. Research today is showing that there are multiple effects of the phytonutrients from fruits and vegetables and that they may be far more important to human health than even my friend Lendon recognized.
WHAT DO WE CALL PHYTONUTRIENTS TODAY?
Without going into all the technical or scientific definitions of these terms, here are a few names you may recognize today for this broad area termed phytonutrients; antioxidants, polyphenols, flavenoids, phytochemicals, carotenoids, catechins, isoflavones and allyl sulfides. Here are half a dozen you may know best; Beta-Carotene, Lycopene, Lutein, Resveratrol, Isoflavones and Anthocyanidins. Phytonutrients are being researched more every day as we recognize more and more the ancient benefits of fruits and vegetables.
WHERE DO WE GET OUR PHYTONUTRIENTS?
The old adage; “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.” is proving truer and truer every day! Phytonutrients come from fruits and vegetables, beans, grains and plant foods of all types. “Phyto” refers to the Greek word for plant. Plants contain thousands of natural chemicals which protect those plants from bugs, fungi, and other types of threats. Many of those chemicals have become known as phytonutrients because of the nutrition they provide for the human body. For example; Quercetin, a Flavenoid, is quite well studied and is found in apples, kale, onions and many berries. One of the more commonly recognized is Lycopene which is found in tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelons, giving them their red/pink color. Looking for Beta-Carotene to support the immune system? Look to pumpkins, carrots, apricots, cantaloupes, and kale among others. Phytonutrients in many fruits and vegetables tend to be most present in those that have literally ripened on the vine, on the tree, or in the ground. Have you ever tasted the fresh, sweet, juicy tomato that came from your garden as compared to one grown thousands of miles from your grocery and picked green?
ARE THER HEALTH BENEFITS TO PHYTONUTRIENTS?
The answer to that is a resounding, Yes! There are two primary challenges today to getting the nutrition we need from fruits and vegetables. One challenge is simply the prices that seem to be increasing weekly which make it almost impossible to consume enough fruits and vegetable on a daily basis. Today (2023) it is even reported that 94% of Americans do not consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day! The second challenge today has to do the with way we harvest and market foods. Fruits and vegetables are often grown thousands of miles away from the markets they are sold in and are picked green in order to avoid spoilage. This means that often these products are “ripened” using gas in the backs of trucks on the way to market and are not fully ripened on the vine. Often it becomes necessary to find ways to supplement these phytonutrients.
I may earn a commission for items purchased on this website.
Please feel free to leave any comments or questions.