Life Extension Magazine®
Vegetables laid out that contain flavonoids and minerals

Plant-Based Multivitamins with Phytonutrients

Researchers combined extracts and powders of 12 foods to provide the phytonutrient equivalent of three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit as well as key vitamins and minerals.

By Michael Downey.

Plant-based compounds called phytonutrients promote healthy longevity and help reduce the risk for many age-related disorders.

An astonishing 90% of American adults fail to meet the daily recommended intake of fruits and vegetables rich in these plant nutrients.1

Research suggests that, worldwide, low consumption of vegetables results in about 800,000 deaths from heart disease and 200,000 deaths from stroke annually.

Low intake of fruit appears to cause about half a million deaths from heart disease every year and over one million stroke deaths.2

Studies indicate that even a modest increase in consumption of these plant foods could help prevent type II diabetes.3

We know it is important to regularly consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables for optimal health. But that can be challenging.

Researchers have identified a dozen fruits and vegetables that, together, provide a rich array of highly beneficial phytonutrients.

Extracts and powders of these 12 foods deliver the phytonutrient equivalent of three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit.

As an added benefit, these plant concentrates also provide food-based vitamins and minerals.

The Importance of Phytonutrients

Meal tin filled with fruits and vegetables with phytonutrients

Phytonutrients are health-promoting plant-based compounds.

They have a wide range of benefits, including anti-inflammatory activity, immune support, DNA repair, carcinogen detoxification, and reduction in damage from toxin exposures.4

These mechanisms function at the cellular level to arrest processes that can lead to diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other disorders.

Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with lower rates of various risk factors for chronic disease.5

The World Health Organization recommended an adequate intake of fruits and vegetables for the prevention of chronic diseases including obesity.6

For example, a diet rich in vegetables and fruits may:7

  • Reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke,
  • Help prevent some cancers, such as breast and lung cancer,
  • Support eye health and help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts,
  • Lower risk of digestive problems,
  • Improve blood sugar levels and help prevent type II diabetes, and
  • Help keep appetite in check.

But only 10% of American adults get the recommended daily intake of phytonutrient-rich fruits and vegetables.1

Even those who do may not realize that today’s industrial farming practices may deplete the soil of critical nutrients.

Some studies have shown that the vitamin and mineral content of fruits and vegetables has significantly declined since 1950.8

Some of today’s multi-nutrient formulas provide concentrated plant-derived phytonutrients. This helps those who want to boost their daily intake of beneficial plant compounds.

Best Documented Phytonutrients

Mature couple shopping for vegetables with health-promoting nutrients

In general, all fruits and vegetables contain some phytonutrients. But a wealth of research has allowed scientists to identify some of the most documented plant sources of health-promoting nutrients.

Quinoa Sprouts

Quinoa, a flowering plant from South America, may improve gut bacterial imbalance, body composition, celiac disease, lactose intolerance, and inflammatory bowel disorders.9 It shows strong antioxidant effects,10 and animal studies suggest quinoa might help prevent diabetes, obesity and dyslipidemias.11

Amla

Amla is a small berry grown in India that has become known for its “superfruit” benefits. A scientific review of preclinical studies found that amla functions as a free radical scavenger, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, and immune enhancer.12 These properties are efficacious in the prevention of certain cancers. Other clinical research showed that amla extract lowered levels of after-meal glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides in both diabetics and nondiabetics.13 A review found evidence that amla and its extracts may be of value as part of a way to delay Alzheimer’s progression.14

Onion

Onion may help prevent obesity and improve liver function.15 Its compounds have been shown to have anticarcinogenic, antithrombotic, anti-asthmatic, and antimicrobial activity.16 Onions may affect many biologic processes that reduce cancer risk,17 and they may help to prevent cardiovascular disease.18

Grapeseed

Grapeseed has been shown to have anti-hypertensive effects. One review of 16 clinical trials found that grapeseed extract exerted significant improvements in blood pressure, especially among people with obesity and those with metabolic disorders.19

What you need to know

Phytonutrients

  • Phytonutrients are beneficial chemicals produced by plants. They are often called phytochemicals.
  • Plants use different phytonutrients to protect themselves from different sources of harm. Some protect against insects, for example, while others protect against radiation from the sun.
  • Phytonutrients are abundant in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, tea, whole grains, and many spices.
  • Many phytonutrients, such as flavonoids and proanthocyanidins, give brightly colored fruits and vegetables their pigments. Other phytonutrient-rich foods, including onions and garlic, have little color. It’s important to include a full range of plant foods in your diet.
  • Different phytonutrients provide a wide range of benefits in people, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, enhanced immunity, improved intercellular communication, DNA repair, reduced damage from exposure to toxins and carcinogens, and potentially a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.4

Broccoli

Studies show that compounds in broccoli may protect against the risk of cancer via several mechanisms.20 This protective effect is so significant that scientists refer to broccoli as “green chemoprevention.”21 Research in animals suggests that broccoli may improve gut microbiota and attenuate colitis.22 In mice fed a typical Western diet, broccoli appears to inhibit the development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and liver cancer.23

Palm Fruit

Palm fruit is rich in polyphenols and provides strong antioxidant activity.24 Animal research indicates that palm fruit phenolics may inhibit glucose absorption, reduce insulin resistance, and enhance insulin secretion, suggesting that it may help prevent or improve diabetes.25 A rat model suggested palm fruit supports large-intestine health.26

Elder Fruit

Cell research found that elder fruit inhibits infectious bronchitis virus at an early point in the replication process “probably by rendering the virus non-infectious.”27 A mouse model showed that it stimulated an immune response that prevented viral (flu) infection.28 European black elderberries were found to have antibacterial, antiviral, antidepressant, antitumor, and hypoglycemic properties, as well as the ability to decrease body fat.29 A review of five clinical studies found that elder fruit preparations taken within 48 hours of symptom onset may reduce the duration and severity of common cold and influenza symptoms in adults.30

Blackberries found with antioxidant and antimicrobial nutrients

Blackberry

Blackberry has been used extensively in herbal medicine.31 It provides diverse pharmacological effects that are antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-diabetic, anti-diarrheal, and antiviral.32 Remarkably, one study found that, by protecting against oxidation and inflammation-induced injury, blackberry extracts prevented liver damage in rats and may alleviate non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).33

Sweet Cherry

After studying the phytonutrients in sweet cherry extracts, scientists have documented their suppression of key events in the carcinogenic process. This may be related to their effects against oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, deregulated cell proliferation and induction of beneficial apoptosis (programmed death of defective cells).34 This review of laboratory studies suggested sweet cherries have potential for adjuvant cancer treatment.

Laboratory studies also indicate sweet cherries may help counteract neurodegenerative disease through their upregulation of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein that promotes the survival of neurons.35

Hand holding fresh cranberries with antibacterial properties

Cranberry

Cranberry extracts were shown in a preclinical study to suppress the growth of dangerous E. coli bacteria, while promoting beneficial bacteria.36 These berries have well-documented beneficial effects against urinary tract infections (UTIs), the second most common type of infections worldwide.37 Overall, cranberry phytonutrients display properties that are antibacterial, cardioprotective, and anti-cancer.38

Dried plums in bowl that can be used for plum extracts

Plum

Growing evidence suggests that dried plum has the potential “for preventing bone loss in postmenopausal women, with the potential for long-lasting bone-protective effects.”39 In a cell study, a plum flavonoid was shown to inhibit the early entry stage of the hepatitis C virus lifecycle, possibly by acting directly on the virus.40 Animal studies suggest plum extracts boost memory and learning41 and may inhibit the onset of epileptic seizures in rats.42

Persimmon

Persimmon compounds have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and some evidence suggests that they may inhibit formation of skin wrinkles.43 Persimmon phytonutrients are known to mitigate oxidative damage and may regulate blood lipids and lower blood sugar—pointing to a protective effect against cardiovascular disorders and diabetes.44

PLANT-EXTRACT SUMMARY

Twelve healthy plant foods have been described so far.

Adding these to one’s daily diet makes a lot of scientific sense.

Another option is to ingest these fruits/vegetables in the form of extracts and powders that provide the same amount of:

  • Flavonoids found in three servings of vegetables, and
  • Proanthocyanidins found in two servings of fruit.

Flavonoids are a very large and diverse group of beneficial plant pigments.

Proanthocyanidins are a flavonoid subgroup.

These compounds help your body fight off damaging free radicals, reduce harmful inflammation, regulate cellular activity, support the immune system, and protect against dangerous stressors and toxins.4

New Human Study Shows Flavonoids Protect Brain Health

Woman using fruit and vegetable flavonoids for cognitive function

Ingestion of colorful fruits and vegetables containing flavonoids reduced the risk of cognitive decline in a human study published in July 2021.65

The study, published in the journal Neurology, showed that the intake of flavonoid-rich foods plays an important role in maintaining brain health.

A large cohort of people were followed for more than 20 years, with dietary questionnaires administered every four years, and subjective cognitive function assessed twice.

Among the highest 20% of flavonoid eaters there was a 20% lower risk of decline in thinking skills in people who consumed about 600 mg of flavonoids daily, compared to those in the lowest 20% who ate only about 150 mg a-day.

The researchers noted several beneficial properties of flavonoids that help protect the brain’s blood supply, which may slow the cognitive decline that can lead to dementia.

Individuals’ dietary habits are related to their brain health in later life, the study confirmed.

Food-Derived Vitamins

Phytonutrients aren’t the only beneficial ingredients found in fruits and vegetables. The following vitamins can also be extracted directly from food sources:

Carotenoids

The body can make its own vitamin A from carotenoids, but carotenoids have more diverse effects beyond ensuring adequate vitamin A status.

Three carotenoids—alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and gamma-carotene—can be derived from sustainably sourced Malaysian palm fruit. They are delicately extracted using a low-temperature process called molecular distillation.

Vitamin A and its carotenoid precursors help support vision, cellular differentiation and proliferation, immune system integrity, thyroid hormone formation, and healthy lung, kidney, skin, and mucous membranes. It also contributes to the growth of bone, teeth, and soft tissue.45-47

Indian gooseberry rich in vitamin c for immune health

Vitamin C

A source of vitamin C is amla fruit, also known as Indian gooseberry.

Vitamin C is associated with immune-system health. It protects against oxidative stress and stimulates the production and function of white blood cells.48,49 Vitamin C is also vital to the formation of collagen, the critical structural protein in arterial walls, skin, bones, and teeth.49

Vitamin D

Vitamin D3 is mostly found in animal sources. As a result, many vegan-friendly vitamin D formulas contain vitamin D2, which is inferior to D3 for maintaining blood levels.50

However, vitamin D3 can also be isolated from non-GMO, organically farmed algae, allowing vegans to use the superior D3 form.

Vitamin D is best known for its support of strong bones. It also promotes healthy cell division and immune function51,52 and plays a key role in lung, brain, cardiovascular, and nervous system health.53

Sunflower seeds with an abundant amounts of vitamin E

Vitamin E

Sunflowers are an abundant source of vitamin E.

Vitamin E can help boost immune function, inhibit inflammation, reduce oxidative stress, and promote healthy brain, vision, blood, and skin.54-56

B Vitamins

Some B vitamins can be derived from organic quinoa sprouts. The quinoa is placed in a nutrient-rich solution so that during germination, the sprouts concentrate the nutrients into their cells and convert them into active B-vitamin forms.

B vitamins are necessary for DNA/RNA synthesis and repair, proper immune function, neurotransmitter synthesis, and healthy DNA methylation (a process that keeps gene expression working properly).57

Adults with low B-vitamin status are at increased risk for developing age-related disorders, particularly cognitive and cardiovascular diseases.57

Minerals

The minerals iodine, magnesium, zinc, selenium, manganese, chromium, and molybdenum should be included in any plant-based formula.

These minerals are needed for healthy metabolism, thyroid function, wound healing, bone strength, immune responses, enzymatic reactions throughout the body, and much more.58-64

It is vital to get sufficient intake of minerals, along with vitamins and phytonutrients, on a regular basis.

Summary

Couple grocery shopping for fruits and vegetables for phytonutrients

Phytonutrients are plant compounds that promote healthy longevity and help protect against chronic diseases and premature aging.

Scientists have found that by combining together the extracts and powders of 12 key foods, it is possible to get the phytonutrient equivalent of three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit.

An optimal food-based multivitamin may also provide key vitamins and minerals naturally found in fruits and vegetables.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.

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