Phytonutrients, What Are They and Why Should You Care?

Far be it from me to tell anyone except my three teens, and occasionally my fireman, what they should and shouldn’t do, and what they should consume.  However, the mother in me goes beyond my children, and I am going to dole out some tough love here to you, only because I care!  It’s no secret that Americans are among the unhealthiest humans on our planet.  According to the CDC National Center for Health Statistics, the obesity rate among adults is estimated to be 36%.  With middle age Americans, aged 40-59, making up a whopping 40.2%!  Let that sink in!  Break that down even further, among that group of middle-aged Americans,  African-Americans are among the highest with 48.1%, Hispanics being 42.5% Caucasians making up roughly 34.5% and Asians making up 11.7% which can be attributed to their healthy diet of vegetables and whole grains, which is what we all need to start embracing more of for health and longevity.

green drink.jpgSo now you see why I am here to tout the importance of Phytonutrients.  Yes I am juicing right now, I am on a 4 day cleanse, so I am riding my high from my glorious breakfast this morning which I made in my Breville juicer.  It consisted of 3 carrots, 2 ribs of celery 2 bunches of baby kale, fresh ginger, handful of strawberries, parsley and lemon.  Tasty and surprisingly filling.  I am happy to report I am down 4 lbs. in 2 days.  This is a drop in the bucket I assure you.  As I will be the first to admit I am out of shape, overweight, and menopause has bitch slapped the shit out of me!  But I’m a warrior and I don’t stay down! Must be the firey Italian-Irish blood in me.  So here I am getting my health in order, full disclosure here, I should also mention, that I am Stage 2 hypertensive in the dangerous level, so I have the fear of suffering and stroke or a heart attack, curretly, I am on meds and handling my business.  I am way too young, at almost 50 next month, to make my descent from this earth right now!  Too much blogging and living I have yet to do, and I want to watch my beautiful children bare me a tribe of grandkids one day!  But there is science behind the benefits of all of what I am saying, this is the part where you should really, really, pay attention to here, the antioxidants that come in the form of these phytonutirents, are what is going to protect your healthy molecules or cells, and prevent the forming of free radicals, which in simplistic terms, are formed when the protected cell undergoes destruction or abnormalities in that cell which allow for mutations, which in turn leave the body susceptible to diseases such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.  Now some free radicals are normally present in a healthy state within our body, mostly in response to bacterial invasions, and say a virus, but when you have free radicals in the blood that co-exist in an unhealthy body, from environmental and occupational exposure, or due to a very unhealthy diet made up processed food, foods high in fat and sugar, with little consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, you are inevitably, placing your body at risk for mutations of healthy cells and an increasing the free radicals that are invading your body, which puts you at risk for the diseases I mentioned, but especially cancer.  Since most cancers are formed from mutations from healthy cell changes.  But not all is gloom and doom, and you can take steps today to protect against the number of free radicals in the body.  Simply, eat more leafy greens, veggies, and whole grains, and legumes.  Antioxidants dwell within all of these healthy dynamos, so balance is boss!  Now I am not suggesting a staggering change in your lifestyle.  I am not proposing Veganism, as I have tried to adhere to that lifestyle which was not for me.. Do you know Vegans don’t eat meat? I know right?  Lest anyone think that was not tongue in cheek.  I respect anyone who adheres to any lifestyle that leads them to their personal mission.  I just know for me I will eventually need a good steak, a juicy cheeseburger, meatballs, and I live on chicken and fish!  So what I propose to you children is this, all things in moderation, limit processed food and fast food, ASAP, and start finding ways to incorporate healthy foods into even one meal a day!  One meal a day!  Come on kiddies we can manage that, right?

So back to Phytonutrients and what you should know!  Sorry I am manic today, so I am all over the place, must be all the phytonutrients in my juice this morning.  I have to admit that I am having much more clarity and feelings of well-being on this cleanse and without the effects from wine, carbs, and dairy.  Now I know four days is about all Susie is going to handle of this, but it is the kick in the ass I needed to get serious about my health.  So here are some things to consume and the health benefits of doing so.

fruits-and-vegetablesCarotenoids

These include phytonutrients that you may know about, Alpha-Carotene, Beta Carotene, and Beta Cryptoxanthin, which I wasn’t familiar with until I did my research.  They include your red, yellow, and orange color fruits and veggies, which the body converts to Vitamin A, for a healthy immune system, and healthy eyes,  Think about carrots, sweet potatoes, red, yellow, orange, bell peppers. You can add these to omelets or pepper steak, have some roasted sweet potato fries and you are protecting your immune system and eyes.  I can’t help but think of that episode of Gilligan’s Island, when they found the government issued seed packets and when they planted them and ate the harvet’s bounty, they had superpower-like  eyesight from the carrots, unhumanlike strenght from the spinach,  and so forth, now I’m not suggesting those results obviously, but if it helps curtail loss of vision, and keeps you from getting colds, why the hell wouldn’t you want to eat some veggies?

Lycopene

Lycopene is found in red and pink fruits and veggies. Think veggies like tomatoes, red bell peppers, and fruit such as watermelon. Now there have been some studies that Lycopene could help people with sports induced asthma, help with certain cancers, slowing the growth of certain tumors, as well as playing an important role in health of your heart.  I am Italian so it’s safe to say I get my daily dose of lycopene from tomatoes and red peppers.  I love them both.  I always include them in my salads, my egg-white omelets, with spinach and feta, and I use them on sandwiches or just fill a nice tomato with tuna salad lightened up version of course, curried chicken salad, even shrimp and orzo salad, so delish.  Please find ways to get these into your daily!

Lutien and Zeaxanthin

While the carotenoids that I discussed get all the glory for eye health, the truth is that Lutien and Zeaxanthin are equally as important.  Found in leafy greens, such as spinach, swiss chard, kale, and my yummy fav, collard greens, they help reduce the risk of developing two eye diseases that affect us as we age, cataracts, and macular degeneration, both which may lead to blindness.  Now I take no chances with my eyes, since I have Fetal Toxoplasmosis, a congenital birth defect which stems from a parasite found in raw chop meat and cat feces, which is why pregnant women are instructed by their obstetrician’s, not to handle cat litter boxes while pregnant.  Fetal Toxoplasmosis, is passed from the mother to the fetus in utero, my mother was not a cat person, so her exposure came most likely, from consuming raw meat, she use to eat raw chop meat, while making meatballs, unbeknownst to her and all women back then, they did not realize that this practice was causing birth defects, which in my case resulted in full loss of vision in my left eye and damage to the muscles that hold my eye in place.  Fetal toxoplasmosis, is far more serious than contracting it outside the womb, as it can cause severe neurological impairment, mental delays, and seizures.  So I consider myself blessed. Truly in the scheme of things I never knew sight in both eyes, so this is my norm, and I have pretty freaking good eyesight.

Finding ways to get more greens in is really a breeze, throw them into smoothies, juice them, eat them with breakfast in eggs, on sprouted bread with humus.  In your salads, sautéed in oil and garlic for a nice side dish.  The possibilities are limitless.

Glucosinolates

Found in foods such as brussel sprouts, which for 30 years I avoided like the plague, but finally have fallen in love with, cabbage, kale, and broccoli.  One interesting fact I just discovered, is that during the cooking processs and while digesting these veggies, the chemical reaction that occurs from these sulfurous vegetables, may aid in slowing the growth of some cancers.  So even if cancer is present, in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation, consuming these vegetables may control the spread of cancerous tumors.  One of my new favorite ways to make brussel sprouts is by taking about three strips of bacon and crisping them in a frying pan, remove from the oil, drain on a paper towel, reserving for later, I then add a tsp. of olive oil to the bacon grease, and caramelized the Brussel sprouts, I then add a tsp. or two of apple cider vinegar, and the crumbled bacon back to the pan, heat for just a min. season with salt and pepper and voila a tasty healthyish side.  I also roast them in the oven, with olive oil and parmesan cheese and it is insanely good.  Broccoli I do the same, roasting in the oven with parmesan and garlic, it is so supremely good!

**Men listen up on this next one! But really women too!

Ellagic Acid

Found in fruits such as blackberries, pomegranates, and in walnuts, ellagic acid has the ability to attach itself to prostate tissue, men…listen here, according to a study done by the Clinical Cancer research, human subjects with prostate cancer or enlargement who were provided walnuts or pomegranate juice for the three days just prior to surgery, metabolic products of ellagic acid were found to be concentrated in prostate tissue, according to a study published in the March 2010 issue of “Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.” A study presented in the July 1, 2006, issue of “Clinical Cancer Research” reported a reduction in prostate cancer disease progression following surgery in patients given 8 ounces of pomegranate juice per day. (Credit- SF Gate.com)  In addition, women, consuming foods high in ellagic acid, have seen results such as increased metabolism, aid in the regulation of glucose, as well as aiding in obesity and inflammation, which in my opinion is the reason that many cancers and disease progress in the body.

**To my sisterhood on the planet, this one is for you…

Phytoestogens

Because of their structural make up, phytoestrogens, when consumed, create an estrogen like effect within the body.  Now in doing so, they also have the ability to block naturally occurring estrogen in the body. Soy products, such as soy milk, tofu and edemame are high in phytoestrogens, therefore, women who are undergoing treatment for or have had a history of breast cancer, are strongly urged to stay away from soy products.  But this is specific to your oncologist’s recommendations and your personal feelings.  However, in women without medical concerns, such as breast cancer, phytoestrogens may lower the risk of endometrial cancer, and equally of great importance, especially, with aging and menopause, bone loss.

Resvertorol

This antioxidant has been receiving a lot of attention lately, and with my love of wine, had me smiling, even though I don’t consume red wine nearly as often as white. None the less the health benefits have me rethinking that.  Found in red wine, purple grapes, and grapes. this powerhouse acts as an anti-inflammatory, which may aid against heart disease, and certain cancer.   If you are not a wine drinker, you may still be able to reap the benefits from either grape juice or fresh grapes.

Listen, I know we are all busy in our lives, raising our children, working, stressing over bills, but all of this means nothing if you are in poor health, and knowing you can make simple changes to improve your health and find new and fun ways to incorporate healthy items into your meals can put you on the path to good health, wellness, and optimize the risk that you or your family will have to deal with something as insidious as cancer, or cardiovascular disease.  Please consider making one or all of these changes.  I wish you all good health, happiness, and love abound!

Sinfully,

Susan xoxo

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