As more and more people embrace a plant-based diet, it’s important to understand the unique benefits that come with consuming foods from plants. While animal-based foods are a good source of many nutrients, there are certain essential vitamins and minerals that can only be obtained from plant-based sources. These nutrients play a crucial role in maintaining our health and well-being, from improving our immune system to reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
In this article, we’ll explore 6 important nutrients that are only found in plant-based foods, and discuss why they’re so important for our overall well-being. So whether you’re a committed vegan, a part-time flexitarian, or simply looking to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet, read on to learn about the vital nutrients that you can’t get from animal foods.
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Vitamin C plays a vital role in the body as an antioxidant and is necessary for the maintenance of connective tissue, as well as for the function of several enzymes.
Multiple studies suggest that a high intake of Vitamin C may have various health benefits, including:
- Protection against age-related mental decline
- Reduction of blood pressure
- Improvement of blood vessel health, which may help reduce the risk of clogged arteries
If a person is deficient in Vitamin C, they may develop scurvy, a condition that can lead to severe symptoms.
Therefore, it is important to obtain adequate amounts of Vitamin C from sources such as fruits, vegetables, fortified foods, or supplements. The most abundant sources of Vitamin C are bell peppers, kale, kiwifruit, citrus fruits, and various berries.
Certain animal foods such as raw liver, fish roe, eggs, raw meat, and fish do contain some Vitamin C, however, these are typically not consumed without heat treatment, but they lose a significant part of their vitamin C content upon heating.
Flavonoids, which are a group of antioxidants commonly found in plants, are present in almost all plant-based foods. Fruits, vegetables, grains, bark, roots, stems, flowers, tea, and wine all contain different types of flavonoids.
These compounds contribute significantly to the benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables, as evidenced by various studies. Anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic, anti-carcinogenic capabilities and the ability to influence cellular enzymes are some of the well-known effects of flavonoids. In a wide range of nutraceutical, pharmacological, therapeutic, and cosmetic applications, flavonoids are now seen as an essential component.
To give an overview of some of the most common flavonoids, below are their food sources and potential health benefits.
One of the most prevalent flavonoids is quercetin. The majority of plant foods contain quercetin, but some particularly nutritious sources are capers, onions, cocoa, cranberries, and apples. It is additionally offered as a supplement for immune boosting and anti-inflammation.
Based on many researches, several significant effects of quercetin are:
- Antioxidant, ability to scavenge free radicals
- Anti-aging, skin rejuvenation
- Ability to alleviate allergic symptoms, as shown by several animal studies
- Reduce the risk of chronic brain disorders
- Lowering blood pressure
Kaempferol is a type of flavonoids that can be found in fruits and vegetables such as apple, grape, tomato, green tea, broccoli, potato, onion, Brussels sprout, cucumber, lettuce, spinach,kale and ginkgo leaf. Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, cardiovascular, and neuroprotective effects are all present in kaempferol.
Dietary kaempferol has been shown in numerous other studies to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, particularly cancer. Moreover, since kaempferol shares structural similarities with the hormone estrogen, it can also be used to treat hormone-regulated tumors like ovarian, breast, cervical, hepatocellular carcinoma, and leukemia.
Apigenin is a bioflavonoid compound that appears in a wide variety of plants and herbs, including parsley, onions, oranges, tea, wheat sprouts, and some seasonings.
It has been demonstrated that apigenin has antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, and antiparasitic properties. According to many studies, using apigenin may be effective for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, reducing depression and anxiety, treating learning deficits as well as boosting brain function and memory.
One of the most prominent flavanones is hesperidin, which is largely found in citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and tangerines.
Citrus flavanone hesperidin has been proven to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Hesperidin plays a significant role in minimizing the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. This type of flavonoid is also shown to have a positive impact in treating metabolic disorders like fatty liver and Type 2 diabetes.
Antioxidant pigments called anthocyanins are what give many fruits and vegetables their vivid color. Colorful fruits and vegetables contain cyanidin. Dark-colored berries like blackberries, black currants, and black raspberries are among the richest food sources.
According to studies, anthocyanin has many pharmacological effects, for example, reducing the risk of neurological diseases and cognitive decline, protecting organs, regulating glucose levels, as well as protecting against cancer and aging.
Read more about the benefits of anthocyanins in our article: Anthocyanins: Potent Power of Purple for Optimal Health >
In conclusion, plant-based foods offer a wealth of essential nutrients that are necessary for optimal health, many of which are not found in significant amounts in animal-based foods. A varied diet helps us get all the nutrients our body needs.
In addition to the nutrients discussed in this article, plant-based foods also offer a host of other health benefits, including improved digestion, weight management, and reduced risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.
In the next part, we will come back with 4 Dietary Fibers that can only be found in vegetables and fruits. Subscribe and stay tuned to not miss out!