Food has two main purposes for our bodies. To provide energy for life demands, and provide nutrients to keep us healthy and functioning well. I’m sure you have heard the phrase that food is medicine. That is because food provides the ‘medicine’ it needs in the form of micronutrients: vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, myconutrients, and zoonutrients.
A diverse, varied diet of whole, minimally processed foods is the best way to provide our bodies with micronutrients it needs to function at its best. Colorful fruits and vegetables have some of the most nutrients. Not only do fruit and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals but they also contain powerful compounds called phytonutrients. If you took biology you may remember that the term ‘phyto’ comes from Greek meaning plant. The vibrant colors in fruits and vegetables often indicate what type of phytonutrients are in those fruits and vegetables.
So let's talk about these powerful chemical compounds. Phytonutrients don’t give us energy, they are however used in our bodies and our cells for specific functions. It is also important to note that, like some vitamins, we need to ingest them via food because our bodies do not make them on their own.
There are a variety of different classes of phytonutrients, each found in different foods, and have specific actions in the body. One of the most important functions some have is their antioxidant ability, reducing free radical and oxidant damage in the body. This is especially important for our health and longevity. Each phytonutrient also has specialized actions in the body, within cells and cellular and metabolic processes which is another reason why ensuring we get these compounds is important. Nutrition impacts how our body works. The right nutrients in the right amounts are important: when we fuel well our cells function well. Healthy cells mean healthy metabolism which means we feel healthy and well and we function healthy and well.
Today we are highlighting red, blue, and purple phytonutrients, some foods they are found in, and their actions. Fruits and vegetables that are red are rich in lycopene. Lycopene is known to be a powerful antioxidant as well as anticarcinogenic activities, antifungal, and antibacterial. Fruits that are blue and purple are rich in anthocyanin, specifically cyanidin. Cyanidin is known for its antioxidant activities, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, in addition to possible other activities like improved insulin sensitivity.
I’m sure you know that vitamins and minerals are good and important for our health and now you can see phytonutrients are beneficial for us as well. As previously mentioned the best way to get them comes from a diverse varied diet of whole foods. Supplements cannot replace a high-quality diet. However, since most of us no matter how healthy we think we are likely to have some sort of nutrient deficiency so it can benefit us to fill in nutritional gaps with supplements.
My go-to methods for getting red and blue/purple nutrients in my diet are:
- Including tomatoes in my salads for lunch or my eggs for dinner
- Snacking on raspberries, blueberries, blackberries with my protein shake in the afternoon
- Having roasted eggplant as a vegetable with dinner
- Use tomato sauce as a sauce for vegetables and meats
- Roasting beets and including them with dinner or lunch
- Supplement with a REDS product
I take REDS in the morning to supplement my diet with all the phytonutrients that it contains from a variety of red, purple, and blue foods! It tastes amazing, easy to take as you mix with water and it may give you natural energy by providing your body with nutrients it needs, and also performance-enhancing benefits in fitness.
Here is some more information about each food and its phytonutrients.
- Beetroot - contains betalains that are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory. Beets can lower blood pressure as well as improve performance. Beets have been shown to increase Nitrate oxide in our bodies. With an increase in nitrate oxide, the blood vessels relax allowing for more oxygenated blood to circulate throughout the body and to the muscles more efficiently. This helps with performance because when we exercise, the process through which our bodies create energy for that exercise demand, also created by-products that our body is trying to get rid of. Our heart rate increases during exercise because our body is working to get rid of those by-products. Improved oxygen efficiency equals improved performance.
- Acai - Contains cyanidin. Health benefits such as the reduced risk of cancer, reduced inflammation, and an antioxidant.
- Cranberry - Contains anthocyanin which may be antibacterial, helpful to prevent or reduce urinary tract infections, also antioxidants, and heart health.
- Pomegranate - Contains anthocyanins, cyanidin, ellagic acid. These have antioxidant and anticarcinogenic activities.
- Raspberry - Contains flavonoids, quercetin, anthocyanins, ellagic acid. These have an antioxidant, reduced risk of cancer activities.
Now that you have hopefully learned some more about nutrition and the importance of nutrients, are you going to make some changes to your nutrition?
How often does our culture think about food in terms of its impact on our body? Especially in terms of how eating well can benefit us, especially in the name of preventing many chronic diseases that come from lifestyle choices.
We might think in terms of diet mentality but rarely in terms of health mentality. How often do we consider the impact our food choices have on our health. There is a cost that comes with poor lifestyle choices like relying on nutrient-poor processed foods and overeating.
We can prevent many of the chronic diseases that impact our nation by proactively taking care of ourselves. More or less we need to take responsibility and action to adopt good nutrition and lifestyle behaviors! Flyte is here to help you do that! We hope this blog blesses you and helps you to lead a healthier lifestyle!
Charissa is a Performance Coach, Certified Nutrition Coach, Certified Fitness Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer, and holds a B.S. in Kinesiology. She also holds an M.A. in Higher Education Administration. She is a follower of Jesus, passionate about faith, fitness, nutrition, a lifestyle of total health, meditating, learning and growing!