What if I were to tell you that by simply eating certain foods you could decrease or completely prevent your risk of developing certain diseases? Truth be told- it is possible. By consuming a diet high in certain nutrients called, phytochemicals, you can decrease the likelihood of developing these diseases, plus feed your body with excellent nutrition. Phyto is derived from the ancient Greek word for "plant", and phytochemicals are substances present within the plants that react and interact in complex ways within the body to prevent certain diseases and boost overall health.
There are hundreds of different phytochemicals found in certain foods, and it should come as no shock to hear that fruits, vegetables and whole grains offer a rich supply of these power foods. These foods are chalked full of essential vitamins, minerals, water and fiber that our body needs to stay healthy, feel vibrant and maintain our day-to-day activities. On another note, individuals who consume foods high in phytochemicals have reported weight loss, improved skin tone, thicker hair, stronger nails, increased energy and felt better. WOW- do you need any more motivation to include these foods in your diet?
Below you will find a list of the top 12 foods you should have in your diet, plus several tidbits to support their phytochemical function in your diet. The beneficial effects of phytochemicals are best realized naturally, not in pill or supplement form, although supplements are available if you're not to keen on some of the listed foods. Make your grocery list and be sure to include the following 12 foods:
- Tomatoes- Has shown to decrease the risk of certain cancers and also may even slow the progression of already developed cancers.
- Cruciferous veggies- they include but aren't limited to: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, kale, collard and mustard greens; they are packed with phytochemicals that can prevent various types of cancer.
- Soybeans-been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels, decrease the risk of heart disease, and prevent certain types of cancer. Available in milk, tofu, veggie burgers, cheese, yogurts and tempeh. Contains compound genistein- a type of isoflavone- which appears to prevent cancer and also has shown to revert cancerous cells back to normal.
- Whole grains- include the likes of wheat, oat, quinoa, kamut, spelt, and amaranth to name just a few. The fiber in whole grains plays a critical role in decreasing the risk of colorectal cancer, and also has been shown to prevent and treat a number of chronic diseases.
- Citrus Fruits- these fruits have long been touted as preventative medicine in conditions such as scurvy.
- Greens- dark green, leafy vegetables such as dandelion greens, kale, turnip greens, arugula, spinach, beet greens, and mustard greens.
- Red/Orange/Yellow Fruits: include strawberries, raspberries, red grapes, cantaloupe, watermelon, papayas, mangos, and red grapefruit. The health benefits include protection of the body from devastating effects of cellular damage, including skin, eye, liver, and lung diseases.
- Red/Orange/Yellow Veggies: Include squash, yams, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, red peppers, and carrots. Contain phytochemicals that prevent heart disease and cancer and help to ward off the common cold.
- Fish- contain Omega 3 fatty acids which help to lower blood pressure and reduce triglycerides, decrease plasma levels of VLDL cholesterol, and help reduce the tendency of blood platelets to clump and adhere to blood vessel walls; they are crucial in the prevention of heart disease. Includes cold water fish like salmon or mackerel, sardines, anchovies, tuna, swordfish, rainbow trout, striped bass, even oysters and squid (both high in omega 3's).
- Nuts and Seeds- nutritional powerhouses containing numerous compounds including protein, Vitamin E and fiber. Examples are: sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, chestnuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios, and pine nuts.
- Beans and Legumes- important in the prevention of heart disease, mainly because of their ability to lower blood cholesterol (LDL), and reduce blood lipid levels. They also may help to fight cancer, stabilize blood-sugar levels, lower cholesterol and help prevent obesity. Some types are black-eyed peas, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, mung beans, navy beans, split peas, pinto beans, and soybeans.
- Onions and Garlic- health benefits of garlic include stimulation of immune function, blocks the chemical cancer-causing agents to affect normal cells, suppresses cholesterol production and lowers LDL, protects cells against oxidation. Garlic and onions also may block the formation of nitrosamines, carcinogenic compounds created in the digestive tract. Studies have shown that people who consume a diet rich in garlic and onions have a lower risk of stomach cancer. Alliums include, garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, scallions and chives.
What we eat supports how we feel, think, do and be. Too much scientific evidence exists to see it any other way. If you want to feel good, enjoy your life to the fullest and obliterate the opportunity for disease to rest inside of your body then include these 12 foods into your diet as often as possible. I hate to sound like a broken record, but here goes: "You need to eat your fruits and veggies!"