Surprising Nutrition Superheroes

Surprising Nutrition Superheroes

Over the past 20 years, researchers at the University of Minnesota have categorized 15 classes of phytochemicals in fruits and veggies as cancer-fighting agents. Phytochemicals such as polyphenols and bioflavanoids have also been shown to have heart health benefits.

These powerful plant compounds are biologically active compounds that support the plant’s immune system and growing processes. To enjoy the health benefits of phytochemicals, we need to choose specific plant foods on a daily basis, the way we choose our multivitamins. But which plant foods should we focus on? If we were to look at foods from A to Z, a recommended list of phytochemicals and their food sources might look like this:

  • allium (onions, garlic, leeks, chives)
  • anthocyanins (blueberries, plums, dark beans)
  • carotenoids (alpha and beta found in carrots, yams, cantaloupe, winter squash)
  • coumarins (soy beans, citrus fruits, tomatoes)
  • dithiolthiones (broccoli, cauliflower, soybeans)
  • flavonoids like quercetin, kaempferol, and anthocyanin (in most fruits, berries, beans, veggies, kale)
  • glucosinolates and indoles (soybeans and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower)
  • glyceritinic acid (anise and licorice)
  • indoles (cruciferous vegetables)
  • inositols (brown rice, oats, wheat, rye)
  • isoflavones (soybeans)
  • isothiocyanates and thiocyanates (cruciferous veggies such as broccoli and cauliflower)
  • lignans (flax seeds, wheat, barley, beans)
  • limonene (citrus fruit)
  • lycopene (tomatoes and red grapefruit)
  • organosulphur compounds (garlic, onions, leeks, shallots, chives)
  • phenols (cocoa, tea, and most fruits and veggies)
  • protease inhibitors (soybeans, seeds, nuts, beans)
  • saponins (soybeans, as well as herbs and veggies)
  • terpenes (citrus fruits, caraway seeds, licorice root)
  • xanthophylls (dark green leafy vegetables)

For optimum prevention, aim for 10 servings a day. It sounds like a lot, but each piece of fruit counts as two servings.

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