A PRIMER ON PHYTO-NUTRIENTS
At Klio we talk a lot about the phyto-nutrients in our teas and I often get asked the simple questions of “what are they?” and “what do they do? In full disclosure, this is just a “primer” on this significant and fascinating subject, which is worthy of much greater study, and fortunately phyto-nutrients are increasingly the subject of a lot of interesting research.
So what are phyto-nutrients?
Phyto-nutrients are also known as phyto-chemicals. The word “phyto” is the Greek word for plant. Phyto-nutrients are organic compounds found in all plants to varying degrees; they include flavanoids, polyphenols, caratenoids, saponins, lignans, resveratrol, terpenes, the list goes on.
Phyto-nutrients protect plants from threats such as germs, insects, fungus, disease, and free radicals that result from exposure to excessive ultra-violet rays and other environmental factors. They are responsible for the color, shades, smell and flavor of the plant. The type and amount of phyto-nutrients are influenced by the species of the plant and its growing environment.
So what do phyto-nutrients do for us?
There are literally thousands of different phyto-nutrients and more being discovered everyday. In terms of calories, they are insignificant, but they are very important as it relates to health. Many phyto-nutrients are also antioxidants.
Generally speaking the key benefit of phyto-nutrients is believed to be protection from diseases, cancer and other health complications, and in particular, those related to aging.
According to the USDA website, phyto-nutrients may: enhance immune response, enhance cell-to-cell communication, alter estrogen metabolism, cause cancer cells to die (apoptosis), repair DNA damage caused by smoking and other toxic exposures, detoxify carcinogens through the activation of the cytocrome P450 and Phase II enzyme systems.
Maria Gorden, a registered dietician offered this rather succinct explanation: “Phyto-nutrients allow for optimal cellular function and communication. When our cells are communicating effectively, the proper sequence of enzymatic reactions take place. This all leads to biochemical reactions creating healthier tissues and organ systems, detoxification of foreign substances, a strong immune system, and muscles that will perform when called upon.”
In short, phyto-nutrients are believed to play a significant role in achieving and maintaining optimal health, physical performance and defending us against disease, cancer and other health complications.
So now that you have an idea of what phyto-nutrients are, and what they do, make it a point to increase your intake. Few people incorporate adequate amounts and variety of plants (fruits and vegetables) into their diets. The last survey I saw pegged the number in the US at around 2.25 servings a day, with potatoes (a starch!!) and juice being the biggest contributors to the total. No wonder the health statistics of our country are so abysmal. We should be striving for at least 9 (preferably more) servings of different fruits and vegetables per day, weighted more toward vegetables than fruit. They should include a variety of colors. Worth noting, the nutrient content of our fruits and vegetables has declined over the last fifty years – a result of modern farming practices, so all the more reason to consume even more.
The herbs that make up Klio teas are known for their high phyto-nutrient content. And our brewing procedures are designed to extract the most from the beneficial properties our herbs offer. Drink them to boost your daily intake of phyto-nutrients. But that doesn’t mean you can skimp on your recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables!
Interested in learning more? Just do a simple search for “phyto-nutrient” and you’ll find a wealth of information on this fascinating topic.