We all know that fruit and vegetables are good for us but it is only relatively recently that scientists have discovered specific plant chemicals in fruit and vegetables with amazing health benefits.
The two most researched groups of phytonutrients are flavonoids and carotenoids. A few examples of these are quercetin, rutin, lutein, lycopene, beta carotene and zeaxanthin. To get the full range simply eat as many different fruits and vegetables as possible. Particularly select from the following: sweet peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, onions, kale, spinach, runner beans, broccoli, cabbage, parsley, melon, pink grapefruit, apples, apricots, berries, tomatoes.
Phytonutrients are rich in antioxidants which scavenge free radicals reducing their potential for attacking the immune system. On an average day our immune systems are bombarded by a whole host of harmful free radicals from such sources as stress, pollution, normal metabolic processes, processed food and so on.
Vitamins A, C and E are also well known antioxidants, however research has shown that many phytonutrients have much stronger antioxidant capacity than vitamins. It seems that phytonutrients have the ability to “recharge” other antioxidants increasing their power in the body.
Because of their ability to prevent oxidation these plant nutrients play an important role in strengthening connective tissue, bone, cartilage and the lens of the eye. This makes them important for degenerative conditions such as arthritis, cataracts and cancer as well as giving them anti-ageing potential. All the more reason to eat your greens!
The alkaline superfoods
One of the most important things we can do for our health is to reduce the amount of acid in our bodies. General over acidity of the body tissues and fluids leads to ill health. Acid tissues retain toxins, making us feel sluggish and tired and eventually, over time, may lead to chronic degenerative disease. Overacidity also predisposes us to osteoporosis since calcium is taken from the bones in order to neutralise the acid.
Fruit and vegetables are the most strongly alkalising foods. A common misconception is to think that fruits are acid forming and this arises from confusing the pH of the food with the end effect it has on the body. Fruit is acid but once digested and broken down it becomes alkaline (unless the digestive process is not efficient).
Why do we become too acid?
The Palaeolithic or Stone Age diet had a much more balanced acid to alkaline ratio than the modern acid loaded diet. Interestingly, the skeletons of stone age hunters have been found to have a 17 percent greater bone density than modern humans.
How to alkalise the body
The average Western diet probably contains a ratio of around 80 percent acid forming foods and only 20 percent alkaline forming foods. A more ideal ratio would be 60 or 70 percent acid versus 40 or 30 percent alkaline.