An in-depth report on the dietary importance of vitamins and other nutrients.
Carotenoids; Flavonoids; Phytochemicals
Evidence increasingly suggests that a varied diet, not individual food chemicals, is essential for basic health and a longer life. Such diets are rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, and low in saturated fats.
Some Examples of Healthy Foods
Phytochemicals and Carotenoids
Vitamins and other valuable food components
May have activity against certain cancers (lung). Also may help maintain healthy cholesterol. May protect against asthma.
Folate, iron, potassium, and zinc
Some experts believe beans are the perfect food.
Berries, all kinds of dark colored
Vitamin C, minerals
The anthocyanins in berries such as bilberries, blueberries, cranberries, elderberries, and others, have numerous healthful properties including anti-cancer and antioxidant effects. Blueberries may help protect the aging brain.
Broccoli (also kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower)
Flavonoids, isothiocyanates, lutein, beta and alpha carotene. Note: Young sprouts of broccoli and cauliflower contain much higher levels of isothiocyanates than their mature forms.
Vitamin C, folate, fiber, and selenium
Anticancer properties. Protective against heart disease and stroke.
Carrots and other bright yellow vegetables
Lutein, beta carotene and other provitamin A carotenoids
Vitamin A (converted from carotenoids), vitamin C
Protects eyes, lungs. (Cooking carrots may increase the potency of food nutrients.)
Chocolate, dark. Note: Milk chocolate does not have benefits.
Heart protective (may help prevent blood clotting). May have protective properties against lung cancer (not other cancers).
Many B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin D
Although egg yolks are high in cholesterol, it has little negative effect on people with normal levels. (People with diabetes or those with high cholesterol should restrict eggs, however.)
Fish, oily (mackerel, salmon, sardines)
Vitamin B3, B12. Essential fatty acids, selenium
Heart and brain protective.
Possibly protective against certain cancers, heart diseases, and infection. Heating garlic can reduce benefits. Allowing crushed fresh garlic to stand 10 minutes before heating, however, may preserve beneficial chemicals while cooking.
Cancer fighting properties.
Vitamin B, Selenium (important antioxidant mineral), fiber, folate
May help reduce the ability of cancer cells to invade health tissue.
Grapes, including purple grape juice, and red wine
Flavonoids, (resveratrol, quercetin and catechin)
Fight heart disease and cancer. May help lower the risk for asthma.
Vitamin E, vitamin B1, essential fatty acids, folate
Protects the heart and may help prevent stroke.
Flavonoids, allium (organosulfurs)
May have activity against certain cancers (lung).
Vitamin C, folate, potassium.
Many health benefits. Increases HDL levels.
Vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A
Many health benefits.
Soy. The best products are tofu, soy milk, or whole soy protein.
Isoflavones (phytoestrogens), flavonoids, phytosterol, phytate, saponins.
May have some effects similar to estrogen, including maintaining bone calcium. May also help protect against prostate cancer and possibly other cancers. More studies are needed. Effects on breast cancer are uncertain. (Note: Soy may have different effects in men than in women.)
Spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables
Zeaxanthin, Beta carotene
Vitamin C, folate, vitamin A (converted from carotenoids)
May protect lungs and brain.
Tea (Both black and green tea are beneficial. Best results associated with green tea.)
Flavonoids (primarily catechins)
Cancer fighting properties, particularly in green tea, which may be especially beneficial for smokers.
Both black and green tea may protect against heart disease and stroke, although studies are mixed.
Tea drinking also may help with weight control and help prevent osteoporosis.
Vitamin C, biotin, minerals
Studies link to reductions in prostate and other cancers. Infection fighters.
Note on Organic versus Inorganic Products. There is some evidence that organic produce has higher levels of antioxidants and that some agricultural chemicals may destroy flavonoids. Nevertheless, organic produce is expensive, and fruits and vegetables, no matter how they are grown, are still filled with healthful nutrients.
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