The growing season has begun! Farmers stands are starting to fill up with fresh vegetables and fruits. The Mid-Atlantic region is lucky because we have such an expansive growing season. Dr. Scott and I are already harvesting lettuces and spinach… and the green beans are just around the corner! Even if you’re not interested in growing your own vegetables, we have so many resources at our finger tips. In my nutrition practice, however, I’m noticing less and less consumption of our local produce. Instead, people are getting their “fruits and veggies” in drink-form from the grocery store. Let’s talk about why it’s important to get the whole vegetable or fruit in your diet…
Phytonutrients are compounds found naturally in plants that help protect the plant. They also help protect us! For example, phytonutrients are anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory, and even contain properties that are healthy for our liver’s health. Other plant-based foods, such as grains, do contain phytonutrients. However, there is a higher concentration within our fruits and vegetables that help make them much healthier for us, without the increase in calories. Some phytonutrients are dense in pigments, giving foods their color. For example, the phytonutrient “beta-carotene” is a yellow-orange color and can be found in carrots, sweet potatoes, and melon. The phytonutrient “lycopene” gives a pink-red color and can be found in tomatoes and watermelon. Some healthy plants like garlic and onions aren’t colorful because they are high in sulfur which is not a colorful compound, but they are healthy! “Eating the rainbow” helps ensure you intake a variety of phytonutrients.
Flavonoids, also called bioflavonoids, are a particular group of phytonutrients found in plants. This is the group most famous for their healthy properties. For example, quercetin found in pineapple is extremely anti-inflammatory. In fact, you can find specific quercetin supplements to help fight inflammation naturally. I simply suggest you eat the fruit instead! Cocoa found in nature even has a high concentration of flavonoids. This doesn’t mean cocoa-based candy bars are all good for you so be careful! Research is showing that improved brain health may be associated with an increased intake of flavonoids. The diet is proving to be a very important component in our mental status as we age.
Fiber.. I think we all know what fiber is and what is does for our digestive health! But did you know that it can also help reduce your cholesterol? As soluble fiber moves through the digestive tract, it becomes gel-like and can bind the low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) and pass them through the body so they don’t recirculate and become problematic. Soluble fiber is found in fruits and vegetables as well as nuts, which are all plant-based.
Juice does not count! Unfortunately, juice and juice-based drinks do not contain the concentrations of healthy compounds that I mention above. Instead, when juice is removed from the fruit or vegetable, it is mostly the sugar of the plant leaving behind the phytonutrients which are often found in the skins, or peels of the fruit. For example, the white part of an orange between the hard outer shell and the fruit itself contains just as much Vitamin C as the fruit. The white part also contains fiber. If you like to drink fruit smoothies or get your vegetables in without having to chew as much, I suggest using a NutriBullet or other pulverizing machine so you can put the whole plant or fruit (even nuts!) into your smoothie. By using the whole plant you will gain all of the benefits, and not just the sugar!
For those of you that struggle to eat your plant-based, there is a Standard Process supplement that can help. Since Standard Process uses a whole-food based approach, their supplements contain these amazing nutrient compounds that synthetic, lab-based supplements lack. SP Green Food can be taken daily to help provide some of the nutrients that may be missing from your diet. Two of the main ingredients are Brussel sprouts and dried barley… not too common in the average American Diet! It’s not always easy to eat healthy, but at Body Logic we do our best to help you gain the benefits through education and making smarter choices!