You already know that it’s healthy to eat fruits and vegetables, but you may not know that plants contain nutrients essential for your body to function properly. Many of these nutrients can’t be found anywhere except in plants. Eating a variety of plants, including seeds, nuts, and fungi, can help prevent disease and keep your body systems operating at their best.
The phytochemicals in plants give them their color, taste, and smell, but when consumed by humans, they offer multiple health benefits. Eating a diet rich in plants may boost your immune system, reduce inflammation, lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, and help your body regulate hormones.
Phytochemicals include many difficult-to-pronounce nutrients such as carotenoids, flavonoids, isothiocyanates, lutein, and zeaxanthin. The best way to make sure you’re getting phytochemicals in your diet is to “eat the rainbow”—that is, make sure you eat a variety of different colored plant-based foods each day.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in nuts and seeds such as flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans, as well as fish. You must consume these essential fats in order to survive. They play a major role in protecting cell membranes and producing hormones.
There are a number of additional health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation and provide you with healthy energy. They contribute to cardiovascular health by preventing blood clotting and keeping arteries clear.
Beta-glucan is a dietary fiber that can be found in whole grains such as barley and oats, many kinds of mushrooms, and seaweeds and algae. It’s often called the “heart-healthy” nutrient because it may help in lowering cholesterol.
Consuming foods with beta-glucan may also reduce the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes by improving blood glucose control and preventing insulin resistance. Beta-glucan also improves the immune system and helps reduce inflammation. It may help fight cancer by training your immune system to attack cancer cells.
Plants and plant-based foods can provide you with the nutrients you need to maintain a healthy body. Although some of these micronutrients can be taken as supplements, the best plan is to make them regular parts of your diet. “Eating the rainbow,” along with seeds, whole grains, and mushrooms, can give your body the tools it needs to strengthen your natural defenses and keep your heart, digestive system, and metabolism running as they should.
Check out this article on 4 ways antioxidants benefit your body!