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  • Writer's pictureHarmony Coop

Dream Green at Harmony Co-op

Phytonutrients are among the most beneficial properties of plant-based foods for the plants themselves and the humans who consume them. Phytonutrient –rich foods offer impressive health benefits—find out how to incorporate them into your diet.

Some foods that are particularly high in phytonutrients include:

* Kale. Often touted as a superfood, kale is well known as a popular nutrient-dense vegetable. This dark, leafy green is used in a variety of dishes from salads to smoothies to garnishes and contains over 50 phytonutrients, including kaempferol and quercetin. Kaempferol is an antioxidant shown to protect the body against cancer-promoting free radicals. While preventing cancer cells from growing, kaempferol preserves the health of normal cells and has even been observed to protected normal cells. Quercetin is an antioxidant flavonoid also shown to protect the body against free radicals and prevent a number of diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, metabolic disorders and certain types of cancer.

* Blueberries. Sweet, nutritious and requiring virtually no preparation, blueberries are the perfect low-maintenance snack. These berries are full of fiber and vitamin C, and also have one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants of any fruit. Blueberries contain a number of phytonutrients, including resveratrol and anthocyanins. Resveratrol is a versatile phytonutrient with the ability to act as an anticancer agent and antioxidant. Other notable characteristics include its anti-aging, anti-frailty, anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergenic abilities. Anthocyanins are a group of phytonutrients flavonoids with anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic qualities. These phytonutrients are noticeable by the red to blue hue they display, and are shown to be helpful in preventing cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes.

* Avocado. One of the producers of natural, healthy fat, avocados have been soaring in popularity as a simple snack or side. These creamy pitted fruits are shown to help prevent cardiovascular disease and contain a number of phytonutrients. Notably, avocados are rich in carotenoids, a group of phytonutrients that possess anti-aging antioxidants. They can also help enhance immune function, balance blood sugar and reduce the risk of developing cancer.

* Spinach Containing high iron and nitrate concentrations, spinach is known for its positive effects on muscle strength. Spinach also contains high levels of vitamin C, vitamin K and folate, as well as a number of beneficial phytonutrients such as polyphenols and alpha lipoic acid. Another group of phytonutrients, polyphenols are also antioxidants. Long -term studies on their effects show that extended ingestion of polynutrients can help protect the body against cancer development, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and neurodegenerative diseases. Alpha lipoic acid is also an antioxidant that can help prevent cell damage in the body and restore vitamin levels such as vitamin E and vitamin C.

What's the healthiest way to cook?

This can depend on what you're cooking and what your personal health goals are. Some foods are best raw, while others require some form of heating to become edible or improve nutrition or flavor. Scientists agree eating a varied diet is the best way to go, so make sure to try new foods and cooking techniques often--it's not just healthy, it's fun!

RAW: Don't cook it at all! The raw food diet is popular these days because it's plant-based with no added sugars, salt, or fat from cooking. Eating a variety of fruits and veggies has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, and many nutrients are most bioavailable (easily absorbed) when raw.

STEAM: Cooking food in the hot vapors above a boiling pot of liquid is one of the healthiest ways to cook. While some nutrients are destroyed in the cooking process, others (like lycopene and beta-carotene) are made more bioavailable when cooked--and some food, like meats, seafood, and poultry, has to be cooked in order for humans to eat it.

BOIL: Simple to do without needing extra fat, boiling works with just about anything--though overcooking can make food seem bland and soggy. Also, some nutrients get washed away in the cooking process. Try using the cooking water in sauces or other dishes, or try poaching, which uses less liquid.

SAUTÉ: Most effective for smaller pieces of meat and vegetables, sautéing means quickly cooking/searing in a pan on the stove. While most sauté methods do require fat, use healthy fats like olive oil and keep an eye on the heat to limit potential carcinogens.

BAKE: Cooking food in the dry heat of an oven is one of the simplest methods and does not always require extra seasoning or fat. Make sure food (especially meats) gets cooked to a safe temperature without overcooking, which can dry food out.


-Crudités (raw veggies) with a yogurt dip or hummus spread

-Trail mix with dried fruits and nuts

-Zoodles (spiralized zucchini) with vegan nut "cheese"

-Raw seed crackers (use a dehydrator and make your own)

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