Before starting my masters I hadn’t heard of these ‘phytonutrients’. I didn’t know about their health boosting effects and how eating them then can help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and ageing… In fact, it seems with vitamins and minerals getting all the good press these plant based warriors are often brushed to the side when we think about how food can affect our health.
Phytonutrients are the chemicals within plants which give them their amazing colours. There are more than 25000 types of phytonutrients (often with long and complicated names) which may be why in general, we don’t know a huge amount about them. What we do know though is that within plants, phytonutrients are used to protect themselves from germs, fungi, bugs, and other threats. Therefore by eating these plants, it is thought that this ‘protective’ effect can help to reduce the occurrence of diseases in humans and help our bodies to work properly.
Although they are found in fruits and vegetables, phytonutrients are also found in teas, cereals, nuts, coffee, cocoa and wine! Yes!!
An amazing coffee shop in Vienna where I had a coffee with raspberry whip!
Resveratrol is the phytonutrient found in red wine and in studies has been found to reduce the development of coronary heart disease as it inhibits the oxidation of low- density lipoproteins (this is a major step in the development of the disease). Human studies looking at resveratrol have also found that resveratrol improved insulin resistance, blood flow, and various cardiovascular events, as well as decreasing oxidative stress and inflammation.
Cocoa is filled with the phytonutrient epicatechin which also has loads of different benefits such as improving blood vessel function, blood pressure and decreasing inflammation. In fact, cocoa contains the highest levels of epicatechin compared to any other product with 43000mg/Kg. This is far greater than the second highest provider green tea which contains 8000mg/kg.
So although eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables will provide you with a variety of health improving phytonutrients, let’s not forget that in moderation, the nicer things in life are also good for us too! So next time you’re treating yourself to a bit of chocolate or a glass of red wine, enjoy it! Smile! And raise a toast to the phytonutrients!