We commonly refer to phytochemicals as antioxidants. These naturally occurring substances in plants have numerous health benefits, especially when we consume the recommended number of servings of fruit and vegetables daily.
Summer is the most wonderful time of the year! The freshest produce appears in the stores and the farmer’s markets. We are dazzled with the vibrant colours and flavours. Our actual intake of daily fruit and vegetables will probably increase overall during these prime months. If we are lucky, we may be reaping the harvest of our own gardens.
Increasing our consumption of fruit and vegetables has many advantages to our health including: fibre, vitamins and minerals, and phytochemicals. You may be wondering, what are phytochemicals? You will be amazed at discovering the science of plants.
Antioxidants help to slow down and prevent atherosclerosis by reducing the build-up of cholesterol, thus lowering your risk of heart attack and stroke. A diet rich in antioxidants may also enhance immunity and lower the risk of cancer.
No single antioxidant alone can protect the body.
Antioxidants include some vitamins (such as vitamins C and E), some minerals (such as selenium), and flavonoids, which are found in plants. The best sources of antioxidants are fruits and vegetables. Most people should eat 7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Some of the well-known phytochemicals are lycopene in tomatoes, isoflavones in soy, and flavonoids in fruits.
Polyphenols: Spices, herbs, and essential oils are rich in polyphenols and show antioxidant potential: clove, cinnamon, oregano, turmeric, cumin, parsley, basil, curry powder, mustard seed, ginger, pepper, chili powder, paprika, garlic, coriander, onion and cardamom. Typical herbs are sage, thyme, marjoram, tarragon, peppermint, oregano, savory, basil and dill weed.
Deeply pigmented fruits like cranberries, blueberries, plums, blackberries, raspberries are a good source of polyphenols. Typical cooked vegetables rich in antioxidants are artichokes, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, avocados, beetroot and spinach. Nuts are a moderate source of polyphenol antioxidants. Typical nuts are pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachio, almonds, cashew nuts, macadamia nuts and peanut butter.