In an episode of the What The Func?! Podcast, our hosts Laura Schein, Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach (FMCHC), and Clayton Farris, were exploring ways to improve their eating habits. So they sat down with Functional Medicine expert, FMCA educator, and author of The Rainbow Diet, Dr. Deanna Minich, about how to boost the immune system through colorful foods, aka phytonutrients!
What are phytonutrients?
In Functional Medicine, you will hear the term “phytonutrients” pretty regularly, but what exactly are they? Phytonutrients, also called phytochemicals, are chemicals produced by plants. Essentially, phytonutrients are components of plants that are powerful defenders of health. Phytonutrients contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that stimulate enzymes that clear toxins, boost the immune system, and improve cardiovascular health.
How can you tell what foods are phytonutrient-rich?
Phytonutrients-rich foods are colorful fruits, vegetables, whole grains, herbs, legumes, nuts, seeds, teas, and many spices. At The Functional Medicine Coaching Academy, we teach on using The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) Phytonutrient Spectrum Checklist and the Diet, Nutritional, and Lifestyle Journal to guide clients through incorporating more into their diets.
6 steps to getting more phytonutrients:
- Aim for the quantity to ensure you get the total amount of plant foods every day. Can you get up to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day? The guidelines and these come from a variety of different opinion leaders and sources, but essentially 9 to 13 servings of plant foods every day is considered to be the benchmark. While it may sound like a lot, it equates to one cup of leafy vegetables or a half-cup of other vegetables, cooked vegetables, or fruit juice to a medium-size piece of fruit. You can essentially get four to five servings of plant foods just in a lunchtime salad.
- Know your sources. As we learned from above, it’s not just fruits and vegetables, it’s also nuts, seeds, spices, herbs, and whole grains or millet, amaranth, or quinoa if you are gluten-free.
- Eat the rainbow. Focus on the different colors, and getting those in every day versus the quantity. This is an easy, enticing, and creative message to latch on to.
- Vary your choices. When you hear “eat the rainbow,” it’s easy to just cruise along the grocery store looking for colorful foods. However, the key = is to be conscious of the types of foods you are choosing and their benefits.
- Maximize combinations. If you are unsure how to do this, try smoothies, soups, or salad bowls! Smoothies are a great way to up phytonutrients in a diet because not only are you’re getting the benefit of less sugar, but you can also really pack in lots of antioxidants, fiber, and other essential nutrients in one refreshing gulp!
- Be creative with substitutions. You do not have to eat the same thing every day! Be adventurous in substituting or trying out different foods, such as purple cauliflower, dragon fruit, or star fruit.
The benefits of phytonutrients are endless! Remember if you are new to this, you can do it, just focus on eating the rainbow!
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