Amazing Nutrients to Know and Enjoy
Vitamins and minerals often receive the most focus in discussions of nutrition, but other types of nutrients also play important roles in health. Some are well known, others are rarely talked about and many more probably have yet to be discovered. Here are some known nutrients in this group to include in your personal plan for health.
The health-supporting antioxidant vitamins C and E are familiar to many people, but phytochemicals from food sources offer several amazing benefits despite being mentioned less often. Phytochemicals are most abundant in plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Allicin, a phytochemical found in garlic, onions and other allium vegetables, normalizes blood pressure, lowers cancer risk and fights atherosclerosis. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts, are rich in sulphoraphane, a phytochemical that blocks estrogen conversion and helps prevent cancer. Turmeric, a yellow spice commonly used in curries, contains the phytochemical curcumin whose wide range of beneficial properties includes anti-inflammatory action and carcinogen-blocking ability. Many phytochemical benefits may be related to their often strong antioxidant effects.
Prebiotics are essentially fiber that is indigestible by humans but easily digested by intestinal bacterial flora. With regular prebiotic feeding, healthy gut bacteria support nutrient absorption, produce nutrients on their own, and promote a strong immune system. Researchers have found that eating a diet rich in prebiotics is actually more effective at increasing populations of gut bacteria than taking probiotic supplements containing the bacteria themselves. Prebiotics are specifically soluble fiber, such as the flesh of an apple or peach, in contrast to the insoluble fiber that makes up the peels of these fruits. Foods that are especially rich in prebiotics include onions, whole grains, artichokes, and legumes. Cabbage, another excellent source of prebiotics, has historically been a preferred vegetable for fermentation as probiotic-rich kimchi and sauerkraut.
Antioxidants are important nutrients that help prevent excessive oxidative damage in the body. Free-radical production is seen in everybody, but it increases in response to any type of stress. Although research has drawn different conclusions on how effective antioxidants are at preventing chronic disease and aging, many studies have found definite antioxidant benefits. Vitamins C and E and beta-carotene are a few of the best-known antioxidant nutrients. Antioxidant-rich foods and drinks include nuts, berries, salmon, coffee and tea. Apples are an excellent antioxidant source that also stimulates the body's own antioxidant production. Polyphenols, which are to be thanked for this benefit, are especially abundant in apples but are available from all plant foods.
A healthy diet should include plenty of antioxidant, phytochemical and prebiotic substances. While all of these are easily available in a wide range of common foods, many of them are also available in supplement form for ease of use and affordability. The nutrient complexes in food are said to provide the best sources of these nutrients, but a varied diet with at least minimal amounts of these substances will provide a strong foundation for general wellness and may improve supplement absorption.