We see them on food labels, we read about them in the paper, there are countless adverts on the TV. We look at them vacantly on the healthfood shelf, not sure which ones to choose and we usually take them with our breakfast. Encouraged from childhood that this is the norm. We are told we need them and are encouraged to take them, but really, what are they all about? and why do we need them? Tadaaa: they dont call me Juicy Lucy for nothing you know! Welcome to the confusing world of Phytonutrients, Vitamins and Minerals…
Phytochemicals are organic components of plants which are beneficial to human health in a different way from traditional anti-oxidants. They are sometimes referred to as phytonutrients, but unlike the traditional nutrients (protein, fat, vitamins, minerals), they are not “essential” for life (therefore the term phytochemical is more accurate).
Phytochemicals have proven to be beneficial in many ways. They may serve as anti-oxidants in a bodily system when required; for example, the phytochemical beta-carotene can metabolize to create vitamin A, a powerful anti-oxidant. Additionally, phytochemicals may enhance immune response and cell-to-cell communication, allowing for the body’s built-in defenses to work more efficiently.
Phytochemicals may even alter estrogen metabolism, cause cancer cells to die (apoptosis), repair DNA damage caused by smoking and other toxic exposure, and detoxify carcinogens by working with the bodys enzymes.
Terpenes can be found in almost all plant life and have a beneficial function in humans; they also seem to battle against certain cancers and even heart disease. Their subclass carotenoids include alpha- and beta- carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and lutein – found in carrots, leafy green and yellow vegetables, and in citrus or pulpy fruits. Another cartenoid, lycopene, is found heavily in tomatoes.
Polyphenols, another common phytochemical generally come in two classifications: flavonoids and non-flavonoids. Found in strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, teas, and soybeans. They appear to fight allergies, inflammation, free radicals, hepatotoxins, platelet aggregation, microbes, ulcers, viruses and tumors. Some sub-classes of polyphenols also inhibit specific enzymes; for example, flavonoids block the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) that is responsible for raising blood pressure. Flavonoids also protect the vascular system and strengthen the tiny capillaries that carry oxygen and essential nutrients to all cells.
Vitamins are the organic substances in food which are required in small amounts by the body and can not be synthesized in adequate quantities. They do not yield energy, but act as catalysts in various body processes.
Vitamins are divided into two groups: fat soluble vitamins and water soluble vitamins. Fat soluble vitamins include vitamin A, D, E and K. And water soluble vitamins are the vitamins of the B group and vitamin C. Each vitamin has a specific function to perform, and deficiency of a particular vitamin causes a specific deficiency disorder.
Vitamins are very important for normal functioning of the immune system. Therefore a balanced diet is hugely advantageous. Vitamin enriched food helps in assuring good health; moreover it avoids the problems related to heart and blood pressure (only vitamin B12 can be synthesized within the body, all other vitamins need to be supplied through our food).
Minerals are important for your body health. Your body uses minerals for many different jobs, including building bones, making hormones and regulating your heartbeat.
There are two kinds: macrominerals and trace minerals. Macrominerals are minerals your body needs in larger amounts. They include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride and sulfur. Your body needs just small amounts of trace minerals. These include iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride and selenium.
The best way to get the minerals your body needs is by eating a wide variety of foods. In some cases, your doctor may recommend a mineral supplement.
WOWZERS…thats a whole lotta goodness.
…Just off to the fruiterier to get me some more! Yummers! JL x