What are phytonutrients?


Once upon a time it was thought that fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals were all the nutrients necessary for growth and health. Now we know there’s another essential group of nutrients needed for optimal health — phytonutrients, also known as phytochemicals. These are the nutrients often concentrated in the skins of many fruits and vegetables, and are responsible for their color, hue, scent, and flavor. Examples of foods rich in these nutrients include: tomatoes, red onions, green tea, grapes, red cabbages, sweet potatoes, broccoli, kale, parsley, spinach, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, melons, garlic, and the list goes on.

Plant-based foods promote good health

We have known for a while that plant-based foods are extremely beneficial to consume, and phytonutrients may be the reason why. There are literally thousands of them in our food. Some phytonutrients help our cells communicate better with each other, others help prevent mutations at a cellular level, some are anti-inflammatory, others are potent antioxidants and many have functions we are only beginning to understand. What we do know is they help prevent cancer, heart disease and most chronic diseases in general, are anti-aging, boost the immune system and generally promote health.

Best known phytonutrients

The best known phytonutrients are the carotenoids, flavonoids, polyphenols, indoles, lignans and isoflavones. Carotenoids include yellow, orange, and red pigment in fruits and vegetables. Dark, green, leafy vegetables are rich in the carotenoid, beta carotene, but the usual yellow color is masked by the chlorophyll, the green pigment in vegetables. Flavonoids are reddish pigments, found in red grape skins and citrus fruits while polyphenols are found in green tea and berries. Indoles are found in cruciferous vegetables, lignans in flaxseed and isoflavones can be found in peanuts, lentils, soy, and other legumes.

It’s best to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, the more varied the colors the better. This is because each class of phytonutrients has different effects. Like other nutrients, different phytonutrients offer different benefits and work synergistically with each other. For example, flavonoids and carotenoids have more health-promoting properties when they’re eaten together in the same food rather than when they are taken separately. It is always best to get your phytonutrients from fresh organic fruits and vegetables, but if you not eating enough of the real thing, I highly recommend a green powdered drink which contains a broad spectrum of phytonutrients.

Food preparation affects the phytonutrients and, raw vegetables usually have more nutrients than cooked ones. There are some exceptions; cooking broccoli, for example, releases the enzyme, indole, that fights cancer. When you crush or chop garlic it releases the enzyme, allicinase, to produce the active phytonutrient, allicin.

PIONEER IN FUNCTIONAL AND INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE

For Dr. Frank Lipman, health is more than just the absence of disease: it is a total state of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing. Dr. Lipman is a widely recognized trailblazer and leader in functional and integrative medicine, and he is a New York Times best-selling author of five books, How To Be Well, The New Health Rules, 10 Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat, Revive and Total Renewal.

After his initial medical training in his native South Africa, Dr. Lipman spent 18 months working at clinics in the bush. He became familiar with the local traditional healers, called sangomas, which kindled his interest in non-Western healing modalities.

In 1984, Dr. Lipman immigrated to the United States, where he became the chief medical resident at Lincoln Hospital in Bronx, NY. While there, he became fascinated by the hospital’s addiction clinic, which used acupuncture and Chinese medicine to treat people suffering from heroin and crack addiction. Seeing the way these patients responded so positively to acupuncture made him even more aware of the potential of implementing non- Western medicine to promote holistic wellbeing. As a medical student, he was taught to focus on the disease rather than the patient, and now as a doctor he found himself treating symptoms rather than the root causes of illness. Frustrated by the constraints of his training, and the limitations in helping his patients regain true health, he began a journey of discovery to search for the path to meaningful long-term health and wellness.

He began studying nutrition, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, functional medicine, biofeedback, meditation, and yoga. Dr. Lipman founded the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in 1992, where he combines the best of Western medicine and cutting edge nutritional science with age-old healing techniques from the East. As his patient chef Seamus Mullen told The New York Times, "If antibiotics are right, he'll try it. If it's an anti-inflammatory diet, he’ll do that. He’s looking at the body as a system rather than looking at isolated things."

In addition to his practice, Dr. Lipman is the creator of Be Well, an expanding lifestyle wellness brand he founded in 2010 to help people create, sustain and lead healthier lives.