Phytonutrients are compounds found in plants that offer a variety of health benefits to humans. They can be anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, protective against cancer and cellular damage, promote hormone balance, heart health, immune function, and more!
Because different phytonutrients are found in different plants (for example, glucosinolates in cruciferous veggies like broccoli and kale, lycopene in red plants like tomatoes and watermelon, and beta-carotene in orange plants like pumpkins and carrots), it is important to eat a variety plant foods to reap all the benefits that these incredible compounds have to offer.
Below are 5 simple steps to maximizing your phytonutrient intake, not just from fruits and veggies, but from a variety of other plant foods like whole grains, legumes, nuts & seeds, and even tea and spices!
Eat the rainbow. No, I’m not talking about my childhood favorite candy, Skittles. As previously mentioned, different phytonutrients are in different types and colors of plants, so our best best for getting the greatest variety of phytonutrients is to eat a great variety of color! Make it a goal to eat all 7 colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and white) each day. The more vibrant and colorful your food, the better!
Aim for 9-13 servings of plants each day. Maybe this sounds like a lot, but by incorporating fruits and veggies into each meal, it can be done! A serving size of veggies is only about 1/2 cup of cooked or chopped veggies, or 1 cup of raw leafy greens. And for fruit, a serving size is a medium piece or about 1/2 cup (for things like berries or chopped fruits). Aim to make the base of each meal veggies and fruits (emphasis on veggies), and incorporate nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains as well. Snack well with chopped fruit or veggies and nut butters or hummus, or fruit and vegetable smoothies.
Seek variety. It can be easy to get into a food rut, eating the same thing day after day. But to get the most from our food, we need variety! Make it a goal to try a new food each week. This will not only keep healthy eating fun and exciting, but it will also give your body the variety of nutrients it needs to thrive.
Get creative with substitutions. Swapping in more colorful plant foods for less nutrient dense options is a good way to sneak more phytonutrients into your day. For example, wild rice or black rice is a great alternative to white rice, purple potatoes or sweet potatoes can be mashed just like standard white potatoes, and lettuce or swiss chard wraps work well in the place of tortillas or bread. For beverages, unsweetened black or green tea are both great options!
Don’t forget about herbs and spices. Get creative with seasoning your food with various herbs and spices, including fresh garlic, rosemary, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, oregano, and more. Not only does seasoning make food even more delicious, it packs a tough phytonutrient punch!
I’d love to hear from you. Do you have a favorite colorful meal or snack? Let me know in the comments below! And if you liked this blog, please share it with a friend!