Natural compounds called phytonutrients or phytochemicals, are components of plants that are powerful defenders of health. Studies show that people who eat more plant foods have reduced risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Phytonutrients provide many functions in the plant itself, such as providing protection from pests and environmental stressors, along with imparting color and distinctive tastes and smells. In the human body, phytonutrients stimulate enzymes that help the body get rid of toxins, boost the immune system, improve cardiovascular health, promote healthy estrogen metabolism, and stimulate the death of cancer cells.
Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of phytonutrients, along with whole grains, legumes, herbs, spices, nuts, seeds, and teas. Phytonutrients in food come in all different colors—green, yellow-orange, red, blue-purple, and white. To promote good health, it is important to eat fruits and vegetables of varied color each day. Aiming for one to two of each color per day is a healthy goal to strive for! While darker-colored plants are generally higher in phytonutrients, fruits and veggies from the white family do have potent contributions to make.
Starting with color is the first basic step to make when developing a healthy way of eating for everyone. It is foundational to all food plans within functional medicine, as plants are good medicine for chronic disease prevention and treatment.