If you decide to implement clean eating as part of a healthy lifestyle, fruits and vegetables are an important staple. You undoubtedly know that they contain vitamins and minerals necessary for good nutrition. For example, oranges contain Vitamin C. Kiwi is another fruit that contains even more Vitamin C than oranges, and it also contains minerals like potassium and copper.
However, fruits and vegetables contain even more than just vitamins and minerals. They also contain “phytonutrients” or “phytochemicals.” These compounds are found naturally in fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, tea, beans, and spices. They provide plant foods with protection from germs, fungi, insects, the sun, and more. However, they also provide health benefits for humans too!
Unlike vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients aren’t necessary to keep you alive. However, they are important in maintaining health and preventing disease. Thousands of phytonutrients exist, of which carotenoids and flavonoids are just two examples.
Carotenoids, for example, provide the yellow, red, and orange colors found in fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids such as beta-carotene can be converted to Vitamin A, which is important for eye health. Another important carotenoid is lutein, which is also important in eye health, and preventing cataracts and macular degeneration as you age.
Flavonoids represent another kind of phytonutrient, important in preventing inflammation in your body. Inflammation is important in healing an injury, but when it becomes chronic, it is responsible for all sorts of ailments such as fatigue, joint pain, heart disease, and more. You can find flavonoids in tea, apples, kale, onions, and dark chocolate, to name a few. Flavonoids are thought to reduce the risk of cancer, and they improve the functioning of the immune system.
Truthfully, it is not at all necessary to know what kinds of phytonutrients are found in each type of fruit and vegetable that you are consuming. Instead, it’s important that you consume a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables – sometimes referred to as a “rainbow plate.” This helps ensure that you are getting a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
One other topic, that deserves further discussion, is that of “antioxidants.” All phytonutrients are also antioxidants. In simple terms, antioxidants prevent “rusting” of your cells. Oxidation is what happens to your vehicle’s exterior if it’s exposed to salt, or what happens to your cut-up apple when it’s exposed to the air. You can slow down oxidation (turning brown) of your apple by adding lemon juice (which contains Vitamin C, which is also an antioxidant) to it. In this same way, the antioxidants that you get from fruits and vegetables also keep your body’s cells from aging.
In conclusion, fruits and vegetables are an important part of clean eating. Not only do they provide essential vitamins and minerals, they also provide phytonutrients and antioxidants that reduce or prevent diseases.