PHYTONUTRIENTS FOR ATHLETES Five a day is more important than ever

A smart way of eating includes choosing a decent amount of plant-based foods, even in the sport setting. What has to be considered?

PHYTONUTRIENTS FOR ATHLETES Five a day is more important than ever

Secondary plant substances are substances that are not absolutely necessary for normal plant growth but are anything but ineffective. On the contrary, they are of great importance for both plants and humans. In the past, plants were mainly regarded suppliers around 30 to 40 different substances in nutrition, in particular vitamins, minerals, dietary fibers, and starch. That picture has changed radically. In addition to the above-mentioned primary plant substances, every plant contains many other substances that are collectively referred to as secondary plant substances. Individual plants can contain up to several thousand of these substances, which make up to 10 percent of the dry weight of the plant. Today we already know, over 50,000 different phytochemicals,


Originally they were considered to be waste products of the plant metabolism. But they are important actors in the protective mechanisms of a plant. Since plants in an attack - z. B. By insects - cannot run away, they have developed other mechanisms to ward off enemies: substances with a targeted effect against intruders. Signal substances such as odor and color are also secondary plant substances. All of these defense, protection, and signaling substances are not necessary for plant growth, but they undoubtedly help the plant to survive. The same goes for humans. The secondary plant substances are not essential for metabolism. But nonetheless, they are central to healthy aging with less. In recent years there has been a growing awareness that a healthy life without an increased risk of illness requires more than just the classic nutrients (water, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fiber, vitamins, and minerals). This also requires secondary plant substances.

Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory 

Due to the chemical nature of the phytochemicals and the research available, many of these substances can be classified as antioxidants or anti-inflammatory. They thus develop their effect, so to speak, at the origin of many diseases of civilization: the uncontrolled oxidation and inflammatory reactions. For example, it is now clear that low-threshold, chronic inflammation in the body is a common denominator for common diseases (e.g. cardiovascular system, cancer, or diabetes). Because despite its low-threshold character, such an inflammation increases the risk of diseases due to its chronic presence. Since many phytochemicals have anti-inflammatory effects, they can reduce the risk of illness. And it is quite conceivable that the positive effects of secondary plant substances and regular physical activity complement each other. Therefore, those who do sports should also ensure that they have an adequate intake of secondary plant substances. As soon as the effect of certain substances is discussed, corresponding supplements appear on the market. Because of the enormous number of secondary plant substances, it will hardly ever be possible to force them all into one preparation. There are supplements with a few or a few phytochemicals, but taking them makes no sense. Because, as with all other nutrients, we also have to assume that the secondary plant substances interact with one another. Your benefit will only appear if you take it as widely as possible,

Practical tips 

The smart way of eating includes choosing a decent amount of plant-based foods, even in the sport setting. The classic recommendation of five servings of vegetables and fruits makes perfect sense. Even if it is not new, you can only now recognize the main reasons for its positive effect: the secondary plant substances. Those who do without plant-based foods are more likely to develop diseases of civilization earlier. The reason for this is hardly the animal food per se, but the missing substances from the plants. The simple recommendation is, therefore: Consume plant-based foods daily and ideally always refine the food with herbs and spices. Because the latter also contain significant amounts of phytochemicals.