Phytonutrients A.K.A. "Fighting Nutrients"
We all know what vitamins and minerals are, right? (At least generally.) Vitamins and minerals do so many absolutely incredible things for your body. But did you know that these are by far not the only things in fruits and veggies that impact our health? There’s also fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients (also called phytochemicals), & microRNAs. And those are only the ones we know about and have the ability to study so far! There’s likely a lot more to plants than we currently understand.
Before we go into phytonutrients, we need to talk about microRNAs (miRNAs) because they are a very recent scientific discovery and they are seriously cool!
Fruits and veggies contain miRNAs, which directly impact the expression of our genes! Through the studies of epigenetics, we are now coming to understand that what we eat determines which genes are expressed, which are not, and which proteins (physical building blocks) are produced in our body. Based on what foods we do or do not eat, we can directly impact our ‘genetic destiny’.
Well then. It looks like in a very real way, ‘we are what we eat’.
Anyway, miRNA is a discussion for a whole other day (sorry, we just get so excited when talking ‘nerd’). Without further ado, our topic of discussion today is phytonutrients!
What are phytonutrients and why are they important?
There are over 25,000 different phytonutrients. And those are just the ones we know about! These phytonutrients impact our health and all of the systems in our body and brain and have benefits all the way from A to Z. Without a lot of strong, diverse phytonutrients in our diet, we can’t thrive! We need a large variety to add color to our life, otherwise life can get real gray.
We can consume thousands of different phytonutrients depending on which fruits or veggies we eat and what their colors are. This is one of the reasons why we seriously need to ‘eat the rainbow’, as eating all different colors gets us a diverse array of phytonutrients, transforming us into powerful produce superheroes!
Can’t you see it now? “Vegetable MAN to the rescue!”
Or “Vegetable WOMAN!”, because hey, we love both.
Phytonutrients are “fighting-nutrients”
Want to know something really crazy about phytonutrients? Not only do they do all sorts of wonderful things for our health, but they are also what fruits and veggies develop within themselves to protect themselves from the elements - wind, rain, heat, etc.
It is for this reason that we like to call phytonutrients “fighting-nutrients”. They help the fruits and veggies fight off the bad guys.
So, when we consume fruits and veggies, we take these “fighting-nutrients” into our body, they empower us with their energy! This may be reminiscent for you of beautiful belief systems like those of Ancient Chinese Medicine or Native Americans who believed that when we ate a plant or animal they were literally becoming ‘one’ with us, giving their strengths and abilities to us. Many traditional peoples believe this to this day.
More Ripeness = More Phytonutrients
Want to know something else nuts about phytonutrients? If a plant is picked early, then it doesn’t have time to fully develop its phytonutrients and antioxidants. So, unfortunately, when fruits or veggies are picked early, they are far less nutritious than when they are picked ripe.
“Well gosh”, you might say, “isn’t all of the produce at the grocery store picked early for shipping?”
Yep. It sure is.
So then, how can you get food that has fully developed phytonutrients?
Well, you can buy local produce from a farmer in your community, or go to a farmer’s market. That’s an awesome way to boost your health and add more color to your community!
Another way is to plant your own fruits and veggies in a home-grown garden. This is a great way to get more colorful, healthy produce! Plus, you can add more color to the lives of your family and friends, as you may grow way more food than you can eat! Share that color!
Pro tip: When growing your own produce, be sure to use extremely high quality soil. The healthier and more vibrant the soil, the better nutrition and taste your fruits and veggies will have! Choose organic soils that are full of life, such as volcanic soils.
Another way to get fruits and veggies that are fully ripened is Ruvi. One of the coolest things that we really love about Ruvi, and why we do what we do, is that we get to pick our produce when it is fully ripe! We can do this because our produce is freeze dried! We ship it cold to our facility right after harvest, and then we freeze dry it, which simply pulls out the water content and preserves it long-term.
Another cool thing is that we do this with minimal heat (unlike drying), so everything, including the enzymes and fiber, stays intact. Our produce retains an average of 97% of its original nutritional content long-term.
So, every time you drink Ruvi, you are getting the very best that whole fruits and veggies have to offer. All of the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, & fiber! (and don’t forget all that microRNA, right?)
What are phytonutrients good for?
Based on color and the specific genetic makeup of the plant, it can have a very wide range of benefits. Again, this is why it is so important to ‘eat the rainbow’, as different colors contain hundreds of different phytochemicals that help your body and brain.
What are the specific benefits of phytochemicals?
As there are 25,000 different phytonutrients, and an estimated 20,000 different edible plants in the world (and that’s a rough estimate), there are certainly a lot of different benefits! Below are just a few of the phytonutrients that exist and a bit about their amazing health benefits. Literally every one of these supports healthy inflammation levels in the body and is antioxidant and detoxifying. As if that weren’t all enough, they have many other benefits as well! (what’s listed below is only a small part):
Lutein is a carotenoid that is beneficial for supporting healthy inflammation levels in the body. It is also great for eye health. Also, according to Oxford Academic, because of lutein’s antioxidant and inflammation-balancing properties, it has been shown to benefit cognitive health as well.
Flavonoids are highly beneficial for heart health, blood pressure/sugar levels, and improving brain function and memory.
Coumarins are awesome for the health of the lymphatic system as well as supporting optimal blood flow.
Indoles activate detoxifying enzymes in the gut and liver. In other words, they help the digestive system rid the body of toxins. This is highly beneficial for overall physical and mental health.
Lignans are known to support heart health, bone health, balance hormones, and more.
What foods are highest in phytonutrients?
Want to know what foods are high in phytonutrients? Plants, plants, plants. That is where phytonutrients are found.
Each plant contains many, many different phytonutrients. Below are a few plants that contain phytonutrients (though we’ve only listed one or two of the phytonutrients they contain):
- Red, yellow, and orange vegetables and fruits (contain carotenoids and lycopenes)
- Dark leafy greens (contain chlorophyll)
- Garlic, onions, cauliflower (contain anthoxanthins)
- Dark chocolate (contains polyphenols)
Something that you ought to know is that it’s really important to eat fruits and veggies that are fully ripe. That’s because these contain the maximum amount of phytonutrients. For the same reason, it is also best to eat produce that has been picked recently, rather than weeks ago.
Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to get fruits and veggies from the grocery store that meet both of these criteria. Tough break, huh?
But hey! To experience the max amount of phytonutrients, you can grow produce in your own garden, go to a farmer’s market, or drink a Ruvi! The farmers we partner with pick our produce at maximum ripeness, ship it frozen, and then it is freeze dried - so all of those great phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals are all locked in! (Plus it has all the fiber too)
POP QUIZ! Can you find phytonutrients in meat?
...The answer is YES!
“Well how the heck does that make sense?”, you may be asking.
Well...what do animals eat? That’s right, plants. So, whatever your meat eats, you are eating.
This is one of the reasons that it is so important to eat meat that is from healthy animals that are well cared for. You are what you eat, but you also are what your food eats.
Are phytonutrients the same as antioxidants?
Phytonutrients are not the same as antioxidants. Rather, many phytonutrients are types of antioxidants.
Antioxidants and phytonutrients are different highly beneficial chemicals that naturally occur in fruits, veggies, and other plants. Many vitamins like vitamin C and E, minerals like copper, zinc, and selenium, and enzymes like superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GPX) and catalase are also antioxidants.
So, "antioxidant" is the broader term and "phytonutrient" is the more specific term.
Since many phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes act as antioxidants, you are partaking of nature's finest medicine every time you chow down on an apple or drink a Ruvi.
What are the best phytonutrients?
Gosh, so many to choose from. It really depends on what your needs are. Different phytonutrients do different things for the body and brain.
Glucosinolates, for instance, are seriously awesome antifungal, antimicrobial phytonutrients. This means they are great for fighting infection and restoring balance to your gut microbiota (the good and bad bacteria in your intestines). Glucosinolates are found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and kale. These phytonutrients give these vegetables their sharp odor and flavor. This is one of the reasons we include multiple cruciferous veggies in our Ruvi CLEAN blend.
Anthocyanins are another amazing phytochemical. They give certain fruits and vegetables their blue color (hence the “cyan” portion of the word). These little guys are also great for gut health and highly beneficial for heart health, brain health, and blood pressure/sugar regulation.
In addition, there’s only about 25,000 more phytonutrients that all do amazing things for the body and brain. Nature is seriously wonderful, isn’t it?
Phytonutrients fill your Life with Color
We wrote this article out in honor of mother nature and her powerful life-giving nutrients that empower us to live lives full of color! Great nutrition and excellent health are the match that lights the fire of all the good in our lives. We need strong, “fighting-nutrients” every single day so that we can keep up with life’s dreams and pursuits.
We challenge you to take the next step in your health journey this week. Do something awesome for your health so that your life can be one of even more vibrancy. As you are filled with more color, you will empower those around you to live with more color as well.
Live with enthusiasm. Make a difference. Live In Color.