Nutrients Found in Fruits & Vegetables (You May Never Have Heard of!)
Fruits and vegetables are an essential source of vitamins and minerals. Today, much ado is made about individual vitamins and minerals. But there are many more beneficial nutrients in fruits and vegetables than just the Vitamin C and Vitamin A we hear about a lot in the media. Here are some of the beneficial nutrients your kids get in the fruits and vegetables they eat that you might never have heard of.
Flavanoids are what give fruits and vegetables the vibrant colors in their skins. There are many types of flavanoids, some of which are covered in more detail below. Different flavanoids have been shown to confer different benefits, but flavanoids in general are powerful antioxidants that can help improve help by reducing inflammation and even stopping the growth of cancer cells.
Bioflavanoids are found in citrus fruits and they have the benefit of extending the value of vitamin C in the body. This is a main reason why eating fresh fruits and vegetables is so beneficial – just taking a supplement with a single vitamin or mineral misses out on benefits like bioflavanoids. Bioflavanoids lower cholesterol levels. They also support joint collagen in cases of arthritis.
Quercetin is an important antioxidant that is especially good at reducing LDL cholesterol oxidation. It also helps the body cope with allergens as well as lung and breathing problems. Quercetin is found in apples, onions, and citrus fruits.
Beta-glucan supports the body’s white blood cells, which stabilizes and balances the immune system. It is found in mushrooms.
Anthocyanins are the most common flavanoid antioxidant, 9 times more common than any other flavanoid. They are most commonly found in fruits with really strong colors, such as berries, red grapes, red cabbage, eggplants, and blood oranges. Anthocyanins reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, fight cancer cells, and can even improve cognitive function.
Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)
Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is used in many dietary supplements because of its immunity-boosting properties and its promotion of T-cell production. It is also abundantly found in tea. It also reduces the risk of colon and breast cancer.
Ellagic acid is an antioxidant and is also anti-carcinogenic, particularly in the gastrointestinal tract. It also reduces cancer growth because it inhibits cell production of ATP. Ellagic acid is found in walnuts, pomegranates, raspberries, and strawberries.
Beta-carotene is the most well-known of the carotenoids and one you have probably heard of. Most people have heard that the beta-carotenes found in orange foods like carrots are good for eyesight. This is because it is converted into Vitamin A in the liver. But did you know it also decreases the amount of cholesterol in the liver?
One of my favorite supplements is grape seed extract, which contains antioxidants that can cross the blood-brain barrier to help heal the cells in your brain. Proanthocyanidins, which used to be known as “condensed tannins,” are a flavanoid antioxidant found most potently in grape seeds and pine bark, but also appearing in apples, berries, barley, sorghum, rose hips, and rhubarb. In addition to their powerful antioxidant properties, they also extend the life span of Vitamin C by 400% as well as increasing the amount of Vitamin E found in blood vessels.
Lycopenes have recently gained some fame for their ability to decrease the risk of prostate cancer. They also help protect against heart disease. Lycopenes are found most commonly in tomatoes, which has given ketchup and pasta sauce manufacturers cause to celebrate good sales as well as good health. (Of course, fresh, raw vegetables are the best source of these nutrients!)
Flavones are another kind of flavanoid, responsible for the yellow coloring in foods like capsicum (bell pepper), yellow summer squash, and apricots. They are incredibly powerful and have been shown to have the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of other flavanoids, as well as fighting allergies and cancers. They also have neuroprotective properties, helping to keep brains functioning even better. They also counteract stress-related diseases and can reduce the complications of diabetes.
Isoflavones may have helped get soy a bit of a bad reputation because of their tendency to mock estrogen. However, isoflavones can help protect against hormone-related conditions in both men and women, including breast cancer and prostate cancer. They also help increase bone density, reduce cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Lutein is another nutrient that’s really good for you. Lutein, which is found in blueberries and squashes, is important for healthy eyesight (and therefore very important for pregnant mums and growing kids to consume). Not only that, but it’s also good for your heart, as it helps to prevent coronary artery disease.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of nutrients. However, these are some nutrients you may never have heard of. The benefits of eating a broad variety of plant and vegetable foods cannot be understated. These secretive little nutrients should give you even more motivation to get your kids to eat their veggies!