The term “phyto” originated from a Greek word meaning plant. Phytonutrients are certain organic components of plants, and these components are thought to promote human health. Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and teas are rich sources of phytonutrients.
Of all the phytonutrients, we probably know the most about carotenoids, the red, orange, and yellow pigments in fruits and vegetables. The carotenoids most commonly found in vegetables (and in plasma) are
|Carotenoid||Common Food Source|
|beta-carotene||leafy green and yellow vegetables (eg. broccoli, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots)|
|beta-cryptoxanthin||citrus, peaches, apricots|
|lutein||leafy greens such as kale, spinach, turnip greens|
|lycopene||tomato products, pink grapefruit, watermelon, guava|
|zeaxanthin||green vegetables, eggs, citrus|
Fruits and vegetables that are high in carotenoids appear to protect humans against certain cancers, heart disease, and age-related macular degeneration.
Polyphenolic compounds are natural components of a wide variety of plants; they are also known as secondary plant metabolites. Food sources rich in polyphenols include onion, apple, red grapes, grape juice, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and certain nuts.
Polyphenols can be classified as nonflavonoids and flavonoids. The flavonoids quercetin and catechins are the most extensively studied polyphenols relative to absorption and metabolism.
ellagic acid strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
flavones Fruits and vegetables
flavonols Fruits, vegetables, tea, wine
The more stress a plant experiences, the more phytochemicals they produce. That’s why plants that are organic or wild taste richer than conventional produce – more phytonutrients!
Less than 25 percent of cells are ruptured by the even the most ardent chewers. This is a tremendous loss of nutrients that simply passes right through our bodies without digestion. The good news is cooking can breakdown the cell walls, the bad news is that some nutrients and valuable enzymes are lost or damaged in the heating process.
Plant leaves are storehouses of vast numbers of phytonutrients and we should be tapping into this rich resource much more often than we do.
Take any standard blender (a powerful one is preferred) and add two cups of COLD filtered water. Add six big leaves of raw kale, collard, bok choy or any other dark, green, leafy, organic vegetable. Remove any tough stems and blend on high. Once it becomes liquid, add a handful of seeds (flax, sunflower, pumpkin, etc) and/or nuts (walnut, pecan, cashew, etc). In addition to their abundant phytonutrients, their fats increase absorption of all nutrients by a factor of 10! Blending fractures most cell walls and the amount of nutrients you will be drinking will be well in excess of 5 times the equivalent raw greens chewed!
After blending for 10-20 seconds, add a banana, berries, sprouts, herbs, wild edibles (lambsquarters, dandelion, purslane, etc), spices (ginger, cinnamon, etc) or whatever fruits and soft veggies you have on hand (let your imagination run wild). Blend for another 10 seconds; add water if necessary. If it’s not sweet enough for your taste; add more fruit.
With time, incorporate more dark leafy greens in your green smoothie and vary the kinds of plants you add. Take your time drinking it. Mix it with your saliva as you would if chewing and drink it S-L-O-W-L-Y. A good motto to follow is to chew your smoothie and allow the digestion process to properly begin in your mouth!
A Basic Recipe for a Green Smoothie:
Add 2 cups cold filtered water (watermelon scoops work great)
Add 6 dark leafy green vegetable(s)
Add 1 tablespoon of flaxseed
Blend on high one minute
Add a handful of berries
Add 1 banana
Continue blending for 1 minute more (add water as necessary)
Savor approximately one quart of delicious green smoothie!