Do you know what makes fruits and vegetables so good for you? Phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are literally natural plant (phyto) chemicals: compounds in plants (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes) that contribute to their color, taste, and smell.
Current research studies show that phytochemicals are powerful related to our health. They act as antioxidants, stimulate detoxification enzymes, stimulate the immune system, positively affect hormones, and act as antibacterial or antiviral agents.
Phytochemicals are usually related to the color of fruits and vegetables; green, yellow-orange, red, blue-purple, and white. They give carrots their vibrant orange hue, Brussels sprouts their bitter taste, and hot peppers their searing bite. Phytochemicals are found in all edible parts of a plant, especially the skin or peel. Nuts, seeds, and whole grains contain healthful phytochemicals, too.
There are some foods that are power packed with phytochemicals and should be included often in your meal plan. These include:
Blackberries which may reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer and may decrease cholesterol levels. They contain Ellagic acid a phytochemical, fiber, vitamin C, and potassium.
Blueberries which may reduce your risk of certain cancers, may improve vision problems, may prevent urinary tract infections, and may protect against the effect of aging. Active compounds include anthocyanin, ellagic acid, fiber, vitamin C, and fiber.
Broccoli which may lower LDL cholesterol, may reduce the risk of cancer, may help keep immune system healthy. The active compounds in broccoli include vitamins A, C, E, K; beta-carotene, potassium, folate, and fiber, which is found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale.
Garlic which may reduce risk of cancer, may lower total cholesterol levels, may lower blood pressure, and may help maintain healthy immune system. The active compounds in garlic are antioxidants – allium and allicin, potassium, and phosphorus.
Grapes which may reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, blood clots, stroke, may inhibit tumor growth and may prevent cell damage. The active compounds in grapes are resveratrol, anthocyanins quercetins, elagic acid, and vitamin C.
Soy which may reduce risk of heart disease, may decrease risk of certain cancers, and may lower LDL cholesterol. The active compounds include Omega-3 fatty acids, isoflavones, saponins, protein, potassium, vitamins D and E, and phosphorus.
Spinach which may help slow aging process, may reduce risk of certain cancers, may improve lung function, may reduce complications associated with diabetes and may help prevent blindness. The active compounds are Beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, vitamins A, C, and folate.
Tomatoes which may reduce risk of prostate cancer, and may decrease risk of heart attack. The active compounds in tomatoes include Lycopene, flavonoids vitamins A, C; potassium, beta-carotene and phosphorus.
Watermelon which may decrease the risk for prostate cancer and heart disease. In watermelon you will find the active compounds of lycopene and potassium.
By including these foods that are power packed with phytochemicals you will be eating a rainbow of colors. If you are a picky eater, and don’t like raspberries, choose another red food like, red apples or red bell peppers. Find foods in each color of the rainbow and include something from each color every day. The more colors you eat, the more you will increase the potential benefits.
For more information, contact the Newton County Extension Office at 870-446-2240.9-3609. The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an opportunity, equal access and affirmative action institution.
1 small butternut squash, cubed
2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
3 baking potatoes, cubed
1 red onion, quartered and separated
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup vegetable or olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. In a large zip top baggie, combine the squash, red bell peppers, sweet potato, baking potatoes and red onions. Add to the baggie thyme, rosemary, vegetable oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Toss with vegetables until they are coated. Spread evenly on a large roasting pan. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven, stirring every 10 minutes, or until vegetables a