Plant Foods: Nutritional Powerhouses!
Most people when asked why they have such a lot of meat in their diet, will usually say that steak (for example) is a vital source of essential protein. However what few realise is that natural plant foods, are not only carbohydrate rich but are also packed with protein and healthy fats. For example, romaine lettuce is rich in both protein and essential fatty acids which provide us with those healthy fats our bodies require. Many large scale studies have shown conclusively that certain plant foods play a role in protecting the body against diseases that affect — and kill — at least 500,000 Americans each year. There is no longer any question about the importance of fruits and vegetables in our diet. The greater the quantity and assortment of fruits and vegetables consumed, the lower the incidence of heart attacks, strokes, and cancer. There is still some controversy about which foods cause which cancers and whether certain types of fat are the culprits with certain cancers, but there’s one thing we know for sure: raw vegetables and fresh fruits have powerful anti-cancer agents. Studies have repeatedly shown the correlation between consumption of these foods and a lower incidence of various cancers, including those of the breast, colon, rectum, lung, stomach, prostate, and pancreas. This means that your risk of cancer decreases with an increased intake of fruits and vegetables, and the earlier in life you start eating large amounts of these foods, the more protection you get.
The human body has been exquisitely designed to expect a high intake of natural and unprocessed plant derived substances. Cancer results primarily from a body lacking these critical substances found in different types of vegetation, that are metabolically necessary for normal protective function. Natural foods unadulterated by man are highly complex — so complex that the exact structure and the majority of compounds they contain are not precisely known. A good example of this is the humble tomato … with its 10,000 different phytochemicals. (Phytochemicals are compounds that are produced by plants (“phyto” means “plant”). They are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and other plants). It may never be possible to extract the precise symphony of nutrients found in vegetation and place it in a pill. Isolated nutrients extracted from food may never offer the same level of disease-protective effects of whole natural foods, as nature “designed” them. Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of nutrients, which work in subtle synergies, and many of these nutrients cannot be isolated or extracted. Phytochemicals from a variety of plant foods work together to become much more potent at detoxifying carcinogens and protecting against cancer than when taken individually as isolated compounds.
The incredible benefits we get from eating plants is only beginning to be understood. For example scientists have discovered substances in broccoli and cabbage sprouts that sweep toxins out of our cells. Chemicals found in nuts and beans repair and prevent damage to our cells DNA. Many complex compounds have been found in beets, peppers and tomatoes that fight cancerous changes in our cells. Oranges and apples are well known to have substances in them that protect our blood vessels from damage that frequently leads to heart disease. Our creator has provided us with a chemoprotective army that is always on red alert and ready to remove our enemies and shield us from harm. The number of new studies grow by the day, excitedly telling us of an ever growing list of new benefits and health giving properties of fruits, vegetables and beans. Do not be misled … unprocessed plant foods are our friends … they contain thousands of compounds that are essential for maintaining and maximizing our health and genetic potential. Phytochemicals (somewhat obviously!) only occur naturally in plants. Note however, as science is discovering the tremendous beneficial effects on human physiology of eating plants and vegetables, it is also realizing the stark and dangerous consequences of not consuming enough of them. In particular … premature death from cancer and atherosclerosis (arteries becoming clogged up with fatty substances called plaques, or atheroma).
Eating plenty of steamed vegetables and a wide variety of other raw and conservatively cooked plant foods is realistically, the only way to get a sufficient amount of these essential health supporting elements. Again, the subject of “magic pills” comes into focus. Many people have the misinformed idea that if they take vitamin and mineral supplements, or even sillier … sprinkling a bit of vitamin powder on processed foods, they will somehow be protected against the problems and diseases associated with a poor diet which contains a low percentage of whole natural food. Scientists cannot create “magic pills” from nutrients that have not yet been discovered. But even if they were miraculously able to come up with a pill that did contain all the right phytonutrients and other essential substances … we would need to swallow a soup bowl full of them to have any impact. So far, modern science has discovered over 10,000 phytochemicals … with thousands more no doubt, still to be discovered. No supplement can contain a similar amount. Buy why worry? You can quite easily get all the nutrients you could possibly need by eating a wide and varied selection of healthy plant based food.