This is where the real action is when it comes to providing your body with the fuel it needs to stay healthy. Natural, plant-based food is what humans have been eating for the last 200,000 years. They are packed with the nutrients and minerals the body and cells need to function at their peak. They don’t clog the system as their own enzymes help to break them down. Eating a diet made up primarily of these types of foods goes a long way towards helping you lead a healthy, disease-free life.
For a long time we thought fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals were all the nutrients our bodies required for growth and health, but now we know that there is another group of nutrients, only found in plants, that hold very exciting prospects for our health and our immune system. These nutrients are called phytonutrients (or phytochemicals). “Phyto” meaning plant and “nutrients” meaning nutrients.
Phytonutrients act as the plant’s own defence system. They protect the plant from it’s environment by stopping free radical attacks on its cells from ultraviolet radiation, toxins, pollution and viruses. When we eat plants, the phytonutrients (along with all the good antioxidants in the plant) enter our bodies and strengthen our own immune system to protect our cells from harmful cancer-causing free radicals. The plant’s immune system becomes our immune system.
The Brassica (broccoli, kale and cabbage) and Allium (garlic, onion and leeks) vegetable families especially contain powerful phytonutrients that have shown an ability to kill cancer cells. There are numerous other types of whole foods that contain phytonutrients that are loaded with antioxidants that strengthen our immune system, keeping our cells strong which helps prevent cancer cells forming in the first place. Other foods clean out our digestive system by detoxing the liver and clearing the digestive tract. So the answer doesn’t lie in eating one special “superfood”, like broccoli or beetroot, but rather in many whole foods. An all-round diet of veggies, fruit, seeds and nuts, beans and lentils, mushrooms and oily fish is the key to maintaining this complicated balancing act, and all of these foods offer different benefits.
The vegetable and fruit families break down into sub families, which have similar characteristics and phytonutrients. Once you recognise the family’s characteristics, it’s easier to understand the benefits of the plants.
We’ve broken them down into :
- Brassicas: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and Brussel sprouts
- Alliums: garlic, onions and leeks
- Roots: carrots, sweet potatoes, beetroots and turnips
- Nightshades: tomatoes, chillies, peppers and potatoes
- Gourds: pumpkins, squash, courgettes and melons
- Rosaceae: apples, pears, apricots, cherries, strawberries and raspberries
- Citrus: oranges, lemons and limes
- Drupes: coconuts, coffee and olives
- Berries: cranberries, blackberries and … avocados
Read on to discover their characteristics.