Phyto- what? Arming Yourself to Eat Smart.

It seems that everywhere you turn, calories are staring you in the face. It can be a little intimidating that everything seems to be taunting you to “Eat! Eat!” It seems many of us are always on a diet, which only makes you think about what? Food!

Clever marketing and head hunger often times overpower our body’s actual hunger. So how do you fight it? We challenge you to start eating smarter. Why smarter? It is about making smarter decisions every time you are faced with a food decision. Does that mean that chocolate is out of your diet? No! If you enjoy your piece of chocolate (and we hope you do!), we want you to start thinking about how you are going to keep your body healthy. How are you going to get the important nutrients your body needs in TODAY? Are vitamin supplements bad? No, but there are greater benefits from food that you can’t get from a pill.

Phytonutrients. This is a really fun word! It is pronounced Fight-O-Nutrients, and it is a battle of the nutrients on the not-so good stuff that can happen on our bodies. Phytonutrients are special little warriors found in plants (phyto- is Greek for plant) that help keep our bodies healthy. Did you know that there may be up to 10,000 phytochemicals that can help fight against diseases such as cancer, stroke and metabolic syndrome?

These little guys also provide color, smell and taste to food. Most fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients. The color pigment contains antioxidants that can slow or prevent damage to the cells from oxygen. The deeper the color is, the more powerful the antioxidant.

What do they do?

Help you stay healthy and energetic.
Protect against the effects of aging.
Protect against the risk of some cancers and heart disease.
May help protect against stroke, high blood pressure, cataracts, osteoporosis and urinary tract infections.

So how do you maximize the benefit of phytonutrients? Fill up your plate with a variety of colors. We are not talking about skittles either. Phytonutrients are typically categorized by color. Here are just a few:

Carotenoids and Lycopene: These are found in RED fruits and vegetables. These can be found in beets, cherries, red beans, pink grapefruit, cranberries, kidney beans, tomatoes and water. They can help to lower your risk for heart disease, enhance memory function, improve urinary tract health and lower your risk for some cancers.

Leutin and Carotenoids: These can be found in ORANGE and YELLOW fruits and vegetables. They are found in apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, mangos, nectarines oranges, sweet potatoes, yellow beets, yellow pears, yellow peppers and yellow winter squash. Our orange and yellow phytonutrients can be effective improving asthma, improving eyesight and reducing the risk for certain cancers.

Zeaxantin and Leutin: These can be found in our GREEN and YELLOW fruits and vegetables. They are found in artichokes, asparagus, avocados, broccoli, cucumbers, green beans, green peppers, kale, kiwi, celery, spinach and zucchini. They are helpful in keeping blood cells, bones and teeth strong. They also lower the risk for heart disease, some cancers, and are strongly correlated with reduced risk for macular degeneration and cataracts.

Anthocyanins and Flavonoids: These can be found in BLUE, PURPLE and BLACK fruits and vegetables. They are found in blueberries, plums, blackberries, black beans, eggplant, elderberries, purple cabbage, purple grapes and raisins. They are high in anti-inflammatory properties to improve circulation, promote healthy aging, urinary tract health, memory function and heart health.

Sulfur Compounds: These can be found in WHITE, TAN and BROWN fruits and vegetables. They can be found in bananas, black-eyed peas, cauliflower, dates, figs, garlic, great northern beans, mushrooms, onions and peanuts. They are helpful to maintain heart health and have anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory compounds that may reduce the risk for colon cancer and heart disease.

Phytonutrients are everywhere! Get these on your side and have them start helping you fight for your health. Focus on filling your plate up with colorful fruits and vegetables to get the most out of your food. Eating smart is not just about making the right food choices, but is about making the decision to eat for better health and honoring the needs of your body.

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