Let's talk about phytonutrients. Phyto is the greek word for plant. Plant-based foods contain more than 100,000 different disease-preventing nutrients, more specifically, "phyto-nutrients." Whole, plant based foods that are rich in color have high levels of phytonutrients. Blueberries have anthocyanins that may help with memory. They are also very rich in disease fighting antioxidants which fight toxicity in the body. Tomatoes are rich in the red pigment lycopene, which may help target heart disease and cancer, and ginger has gingerols that may help with hypertension. Intake of citrus has been associated with reduced stroke risk perhaps thanks to its phytonutrient hesperidin, which appears to increase blood flow throughout the body, including the brain. The list goes on, but the take away point is to "eat the rainbow." Not skittles, but rather whole, plant foods that are rich in color. Again, the whole-food is better than just one part of the whole. When choosing between a processed (broken down) version of a plant, in this case let's say blueberry juice, go instead for the whole blueberry. The benefit is that 1. you are increasing your fiber intake (great for losing weight and promoting a health gut) and 2. you are getting the rich phytonutrients that live in the wall membranes of the fruit.
Eating a whole food plant based diet is a large part of living a healthy and happy life, One thing that we do want to consider however is the source of the food we consume, especially as it relates to potential harmful chemicals that may have been used in the growing process. The EWG is a stand-up organization who takes a detailed look into these farming practices and releases a yearly guide on organic vs. non-organic produce. With this, they developed the clean 15 and the dirty dozen. The clean 15 are the fruits and veggies that are okay to consume if they are not organic. The dirty dozen on the other hand are the 12 fruits and veggies that you really want to get organic. Here is their list for this year. Enjoy.
sweet bell peppers
One question that we hear a lot is, “so where do you get your protein?” It’s a totally fair question and one that we both asked before going plant-based ourselves.
Let’s first of all take a look at protein - 1. what is it, 2. what does it do and why do we need it, and 3. how do we get it.
Protein is one of three macronutrients, along with carbohydrates and fats/lipids that are required by our body to optimize health. Protein is made up of amino acids. Some of these amino acids are produced by the body and are referred to as nonessential amino acids - basically, we don’t need to ingest these in our diets. The other group of amino acids are referred to as essential amino acids and these are the ones that must be provided through our diets.
Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, blood and our brain.
Every single essential amino acid are available in both plant and animal foods. Let’s say that again: every single ESSENTIAL amino acid is available in plant foods. Let’s take this one step further - every single essential amino acid starts in plant form whether it’s an animal eating plants or an animal eating another animal... it was originally derived from plants. Let’s say this again too: every single essential amino acid starts in plant form. ⠀⠀⠀⠀
Simone Hill from Plant Proof puts it very well. “By eating a well balanced whole food plant based diet you can get all the essential amino acids you need in great amounts. Ok “but aren’t plant proteins less digestible/bioavailable?” Well yes slightly, but that’s easily taken care of by a slight increase in the recommended protein intake. You’re far better off consuming slightly more plant protein & getting all the added health benefits from the foods they’re found in compared to consuming animal proteins which sit alongside their mates saturated fat, cholesterol, antibiotics & hormones. Steer clear of vegan processed/junk food & base your diet around unrefined grains, beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, seeds & fruits/veg & you don’t need to worry about protein while enjoying the tremendous benefits these nutrient dense foods offer.”
For further reading on this matter I would encourage you to read Proteinaholic by Dr. Garth Davis, MD.
A Few Reasons to Add Beets to your Eats
1. Promotes Liver Health - Beets contains Betacyanin which helps detoxify your liver and your blood while eliminating fatty acids and toxins from your body.
2. Regulates Metabolism - Beets are potassium-rich, helping your body balance electrolytes and regulate metabolism.
3. Lowers Inflammation - Beets contained Betaine- an anti-inflammatory agent that promotes reduced pain and swelling.
4. Lowers Risk of Anemia - Beets are loaded with iron, an essential mineral that our bodies need to make red blood cells.
5. Loaded with Vitamin C - Nature already mastered nutrient, vitamin and mineral pairing. Just like the body needs Vitamin D to help your body absorb calcium, your body needs Vitamin C to help your body absorb and use iron. The Vitamin C in beets allow your body to absorb the iron in beets - a prime example of how eating “whole food” has boundless benefits.
6. Immunity Booster - Beets are rich in rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, particularly betanin, vulgaxanthin and betalains which boost immunity
6. Strong Bones - Beets are a good source of calcium, promoting strong bones and teeth.
7. Maintains Healthy Blood Sugar Levels - Beets are a low-glycemic food therefore slowly release glucose into our blood stream, creating a nice and even rise in glucose to give us energy.
8. Fiber - The miracle nutrient that helps up lose weight, feed our microbiome, and eliminate toxins from our bodies.
One simple way to dip your toes in the water when it comes to beets is to add them to your morning smoothies. We encourage you to load your morning shakes with as much “whole food” as possible and this is a great addition to the berries, greens, bananas, etc. Here is a quick and easy recipe that tastes great and delivers a nutrient punch to fuel your body and boost your energy.
1 cup frozen organic berries (triple berry blend is great for this)
1 organic banana
1/2 organic peeled beet
1/2 cup organic almond milk
1 1/2 cup ice
Depending on which phase you are in, feel free to add your usual shake ingredients to this - Vegemeal, Essentiagreens, GI revive, etc
Blended until smooth and enjoy!
Let's take a quick dive into "Whole Foods." Not the store, but rather the opposite of "Refined or Processes Foods." Refined or processed foods are foods that have been broken down and tend to exclude some of the most beneficial parts of the food. Refined foods are most common in the western diet and are rich in calories, but poor in nutrients - one of the largest drivers of weight gain. For an example, lets take a look at an apple (whole food) vs apple juice (refined or processed food). The apple (whole food) contains a vast array of phytochemicals, including quercetin, catechin, phloridzin and chlorogenic acid, all of which are strong antioxidants and protect our bodies from disease. In addition, the apple contains fiber - one of mother nature's miracle nutrients. The benefits of fiber are profound, ranging from stronger immune systems, to lower cholesterol levels, improved insulin levels and is critical for healthy weight. Another important role that fiber plays is that it slows the release of sugar into the blood stream, decreasing blood sugar spikes which can overwhelm the pancreas and lead to weight gain. Now, lets look at apple juice. We've taken away the fiber along with the majority of the powerful phytochemicals which protect our bodies from disease. When it comes to what we feed our bodies, remember to "eat whole foods, mostly plants."