By Alyssa Ford
Nutrients Beyond Number
Golden Ticket to Great Health
Why Food Is Your Best Source
From Allicin to Zeaxanthin: The Phytonutrient Superstars
Many of us are well aware of macronutrients, such as carbohydrates, protein and fat, as well as micronutrients, such as the vitamins and minerals that are listed on FDA-regulated food labels. But too few of us are familiar with phytochemicals — plant-based micronutrients that offer many health benefits and may help ward off chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
It’s a time-tested truth: Plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, are good for you. But researchers recently have discovered that plant molecules connect with human cells in striking ways. In other words, we’ve known they were good for you — just not this good.
“I don’t think there’s been this much excitement since vitamins and minerals were discovered more than 100 years ago,” says Beverly Clevidence, PhD, the research leader at the USDA-funded Food Components and Health Laboratory in Beltsville, Md.
The discoveries — partly because of the work of the Human Genome Project — are revolutionizing the way we think about food.
In the past 20 years, for example, researchers have discovered that carrots, kale and peanuts are not just plant tissues embedded with vitamins and minerals that are easily encapsulated in multivitamins. Rather, these plant tissues are made up of tens of thousands of phytochemicals (“phyto” is from the Greek phuton, meaning plant).
You’ve probably heard of a few phytochemicals without even knowing what they are. For example, lycopene is a powerful phytonutrient found in tomatoes that helps fight heart disease and a variety of cancers. And the phenols found in strawberries protect against cancer and autoimmune diseases, and help reverse nerve-cell aging. But there are tens of thousands of other phytochemicals about which most of us know nothing. Experts in the nutrition field are buzzing about these chemicals with tongue-twisting names like glucoraphanin, zeaxanthin and saponin.
“This is an epic time,” says Jeffrey Bland, PhD, president of MetaProteomics, a nutrition research facility in Gig Harbor, Wash. “Some of the discoveries we’ve made since 2000 are so profound that the textbook companies can’t keep up with the information. There are brand-new nutrition textbooks out there that aren’t slightly wrong about phytonutrients, they’re totally wrong.”
Nutrients Beyond Number (Back to Top)
When scientists first discovered these mysterious chemicals in the early 1950s, they thought they had found new classes of vitamins. Some were even given names, such as “vitamin P” and “vitamin U.” But on the whole, these chemicals were largely ignored.
“We made the assumption that these tens of thousands of molecules were not useful,” says Bland. “They were considered to be flotsam and jetsam. They were refined out of shelf-stable foods with no worry, because they weren’t ‘essential’ nutrients.”
Technically, those early food manufacturers were right. Phytonutrients are “quasi-nutrients” or “conditionally essential,” meaning that their absence in the body does not cause beriberi, rickets or some other type of deficiency disease. Many nutritionists now believe, however, that a phytonutrient deficiency can lead to conditions much worse than mere scurvy — think chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
As our understanding of these chemicals has increased, so has their number.
The original “vitamin P,” for example, is now known as flavonoids — a phytonutrient subclass that includes more than 4,000 chemicals. And the list continues to grow. In addition to the tens of thousands of phytonutrients, Bland says, there are an undetermined number of classes and subclasses.
“It’s so hard to put a number on it,” he explains. “It’s a constantly changing playing field. One day phytochemists think they’ve got it all worked out, and then suddenly they find a whole new family that previously was not recognized.”
The simple hop plant, for example, has more than 1,000 phytonutrients.
Golden Ticket to Great Health (Back to Top)
As the number of known phytochemicals has multiplied, so has the positive research. Scientists have discovered limonoids that detoxify the liver, phytosterols that block the growth of tumors, isoflavones that help destroy uterine cancer cells and polyphenols that restore lagging immune systems.
These chemicals repair and nourish the body in various ways. The phenols found in black and red berries, grapes, and eggplant, for example, discourage the development of cancer by blocking the conversion of precursor molecules into carcinogens. Saponins, found in foods such as alfalfa and legumes, inhibit the growth of cancer cells by interfering with their DNA. And flavonoids, found in citrus fruits, red wine and dark chocolate, inhibit a chemical called estrogen synthase, an enzyme that binds estrogen to the receptors in several organs and that can lead to breast and uterine cancers.
It starts with the same process: Intercellular transduction. That’s a mouthful, but essentially it means that phytonutrients convey information in the body. During the conversion from plant chemical to human-body booster, a phytonutrient will bind to the receptor sites on individual cells. The cell receives a message via a series of enzymes, which then trigger the genes to express specific patterns.
For example, sulforaphane, a phytonutrient found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and bok choy, helps to boost the body’s detoxification enzymes, which helps us to clear out potentially carcinogenic substances.
Why Food Is Your Best Source (Back to Top)
Eating a diet steeped in fruits, veggies, legumes and other plant-based foods (see “From Allicin to Zeaxanthin: The Phytonutrient Superstars”) is the best way to ensure you’re getting all the phytonutrients your body needs. While there are a growing number of phytonutrient supplements available, many experts warn consumers away from that option.
The big cautionary tale here is beta-carotene. In 1995, it was considered the ultimate panacea. “There was so much good research on beta-carotene,” says David Williams, PhD, a researcher at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University in Corvallis. “We were charting nice correlations between beta-carotene in the blood and lower cancer risk. Basically everybody just assumed that beta-carotene was chemo-protective.”
But to the shock of many in the scientific community, two major clinical trials in 1996 indicated that beta-carotene supplements were not only useless against cancer, but actually increased the risk of cancer in smokers.
“That was one of the first big disappointments, and it made people rethink the idea of going after individual phytochemicals,” says Williams.
Mark Farnham, PhD, a plant geneticist who specializes in phytonutrient research at a USDA facility in Charleston, S.C., concurs that current scientific consensus is now leaning toward emphasizing whole foods, rather than supplements, because plant chemicals seem to interact with one another in powerful ways. “There seems to be a synergistic effect between the chemicals in food,” he explains, noting also that this synergy is very hard to study because plant-based whole foods contain so many different bioactive compounds that it would be almost impossible to separate and study the potential health benefits of individual phytochemicals.
Plus, each chemical seems to have its own quirks. The carote-noids in collard greens, sweet potatoes and tomatoes, for example, are best absorbed if they are chopped, puréed or cooked, and eaten with a little fat, such as olive oil. But the glucosinolates found in cruciferous vegetables are most effective when eaten in their raw state and thoroughly chewed, so the plant cell walls release more of the cancer-fighting chemical. “There’s really no useful rule, because they’re all unique,” says Clevidence.
So eat as many fruits, veggies and other plant-based foods as you can, and be sure to choose foods from all around the color wheel — from ripe red tomatoes to princely eggplant to vivid oranges.
“If on a daily basis you incorporate at least seven different colors, you are much more likely to get a wide variety of these nutrients that are healing, that prevent degenerative disease, and that will go to work on every ? tissue, cell and organ of the body,” says nutritionist Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, coauthor of The Fat Flush Plan (McGraw-Hill, 2002).
And don’t be afraid to go exotic with your color choices. Unusually hued foods add intrigue to your plate, and researchers at Washington State University have found that those foods can yield health benefits as well. Their 2006 study showed that wildly colored spuds contained more phytonutrients than white-fleshed potatoes.
If you need more motivation to eat your veggies, start a vegetable plot, and then chow down on the fruits of your labor. A 1991 study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education found that vegetable gardeners ate significantly more eggplant, sweet and hot peppers, summer squashes, tomatoes, and herbs than did nongardeners.
It’s also a smart idea to avoid pesticide- and herbicide-drenched produce by going organic. Last year, Bland completed a survey of some 50 organics-related research reports and found that the vast majority of organic produce supported higher levels of phytonutrients.
If vegetables don’t usually appeal to you, consider taking just one vegetable-centered cooking class. It might make all the difference, according to a 2005 study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. After all, what sounds better: Brussels sprouts, or roasted Brussels sprouts with pine nuts and marjoram?
Ultimately, if your strategy for good health has been limited to popping vitamins, consider what you’re missing: a smorgasbord of beneficial phytonutrients found in wonderful, whole, plant-based foods. Besides, real food has been through the most extensive laboratory experiment ever conducted — natural selection. There’s nothing that’s been proven to nourish our bodies quite so well.
Alyssa Ford is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor.
From Allicin to Zeaxanthin: The Phytonutrient Superstars (Back to Top)
There are tens of thousands of phytonutrients within an as-yet-undetermined number of classes and subclasses. Here is a tour of some of the most prominent ones — and a glimpse at how they support our well-being.
****For lack of a table code these should be read as first the ~phytonutrient~ the food sources~ and then help they provide the body.***
~Allicin~ Garlic, onions, jicama~ Eliminating toxins from the body
~Capsaicin~ Cayenne peppers, red peppers~ Preventing toxic molecules from invading cells; reducing inflammation
~Carotenoids~ Carrots, tomatoes, cantaloupe, arugula, spinach, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard, turnip greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkin, red peppers~ Removing damaging free radicals from the cells, slowing macular degeneration, preventing cataracts, repairing DNA and blocking carcinogens from entering cells
~Catechins~ Green and black teas~ Inhibiting the activation of carcinogens
~Ellagic Acid~ Grapes, strawberries, blackberries, cranberries, walnuts~ Preventing cancer
~Genistein~ Tofu, soymilk, soybeans~ Inhibiting the formation of the blood vessels that help tumors grow FOR VARIOUS REASONS I DO NOT RECOMMEND SOY....
~Indoles and Isothiscyanates~ Collard greens, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage~Blocking carcinogens and interfering with the action of a precancerous form of estrogen
~Isoflavones~ Kudzu, soybeans, peas, peanuts, legumes~ Modulating estrogen levels; preventing breast, uterine and prostate cancers; and reducing the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis
~Lignans~ Seeds and grains, especially flaxseed~ Inhibiting excessive estrogen action, and possibly reducing breast, colon and ovarian cancer
~Limonoids~ Citrus fruit peels~ Clearing congestive mucus from the lungs, detoxifying enzymes in the liver, and supporting detoxification of hormones and other substances that cause cellular decay
~Lycopene~ Tomatoes Fighting heart disease and prostate cancer, plus reducing the risk of stomach, lunh and prostate cancers
~Phenols~ Black and red berries, celery, cabbage, grapes, eggplant, peaches, nectarines~ Preventing cancer, blocking specific enzymes that cause autoimmune diseases, protecting against heart attacks and strokes, preventing platelets in the blood from clumping, reversing nerve-cell aging, and destroying hepatoxins, which damage the liver
~Phytosterols~ Pumpkin, rice, soybeans, yams, all green and yellow vegetables~Blocking "bad" cholesterol uptake, reducing inflammation and blocking the growth of tumors
~Polyphenols~ Buckwheat, wheat germ~ Restoring a lagging immune system
~Saponins~ Alfalfa, legumes~ Lowering cholesterol and inhibiting the growth of cancer cells by interfering with their DNA
~Zeaxanthin~ Kale, daikon, collard greens, green sorrel, arugula~ Enhancing immune function and preventing several types of cancer
Although this article seems to imply that cooked veggies are good, don't believe it, raw is best, except for Tomatoes-they hold much of their goodidy goodness when cooked, BUT neither they nor any other veggie is nearly as good if cooked because the enzymes are toast[Pardon the pun].
Also vegetables in processed foods are no longer considered by the body as a recognized food source.
I hope to have a digest version of this blog going to be sent out once a week. I hope people will work with me to schedule regular chat times for the chatroom I've created for the exchange of ideas on the best ways to get and stay healthy.
The link for receiving the digest is: Natural health Watchit is interactive so people can comment on the articles and help me get ideas for other articles.
and the new chatroom is healthchat
I the meantime I'm eating lots of raw veggies and fermenting others and also I am taking:
CellPower™ it makes over 34 quarts of healthy supplement to cover the basics, it is keeping my body in a normal Aklaline pH state, killing off viruses, bacteria, fungi, it also supp;ies some of the enzymes I need for great health and it is giving me energy. Also
~FLAX SEED OIL for my colon, but of course
~Glutathione-the master antioxidant is a great helper to counteract many diabetic complications.
I've also added D-3
five caps per day to ward off the evil colds and flus And Silica too; also from Swanson's.
~4 essential minerals for diabetics
~SELENIUMhelps immune system,fights infection and aids circulation
~MAGNESIUMhelps to relax you, aids stress and muscle relaxing
~CHROMIUMimproves insulin sensitivity, and helps lower blood sugar.
~ZINC especially to help you heal.
for the Omega-3~6 balance and losing weight
Be sure to check out my new favorite interactive health message group Heath and Nutrition
Write to me at Webriter@verizon.net or use the comment or chat features. I do appreciate the feedback even if it’s negative, Christian Biblical stories
Natural herbal remedies
NEW Health watchers CHATROOM CLICK HERE
-----THE GARDEN GNOME
~~~Jokes and Inspiration~~~
The Pope and Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) are on the same stage in
front of a huge crowd.
'Her Majesty' and His Holiness, however, have seen it all before, so
to make it a little more interesting, the senator says to the Pope,
'Did you know that with just one little wave of my hand I can make
every Democrat in the crowd go wild?'
He doubts it, so she shows him. Sure enough, the wave elicits rapture and
Cheering from every democrat in the crowd. Gradually, the cheering
The Pope, not wanting to be out done by such a level of arrogance,
considers what he could do. 'That was impressive. But did you know
that with just one little wave of MY hand I can make EVERY person in
the crowd go crazy with joy? This joy will not be a momentary display
like that of your subjects, but will go deep into their hearts, and
they will forever speak of this day and rejoice.'
The senator seriously doubts this , and says so. 'One little wave of
your hand and all people will rejoice forever? Show me.'
So the Pope slapped her.
Perhaps in time the so-called Dark Ages will be
thought of as including our own.
-- Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an
unnecessary freezing of water.
-- Carl Reiner
Acting is the most minor of gifts and not a very
high-class way to earn a living. After all,
Shirley Temple could do it at the age of four.
-- Katharine Hepburn
About the time we think we can make ends meet,
somebody moves the ends.
AN EXERCISE IN GRATITUDE - Part 2
I choose to be grateful...
For the clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat.
For my shadow that watches me work because it means I am out in the sunshine
For a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.
For all the complaining I hear about the government because it means we have freedom of speech.
For the parking spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking and I have been blessed with transportation.
Some people just shouldn't be parents
The couple was delighted when their long wait to adopt a baby came to an end. The adoption center called and told them that there was a wonderful Russian baby boy available. The couple accepted him without hesitation.
On the way home from the adoption center, they stopped by the local college so they each could enroll in night courses.
After they filled out the forms, the registration clerk inquired, "What ever possessed you to study Russian?"
The couple said proudly, "We just adopted a Russian baby. In a year or so, when he begins to talk, we want to be able to understand him."
There's no point in being grown up if you can't
be childish sometimes.
-- Doctor Who
War is a series of catastrophes that results in a
-- Georges Clemenceau
Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no
remedy exists, unless laughter can be said to
-- Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle
Some have been thought brave because they were
afraid to run away.
-- Thomas Fuller
HAPPY NEW YEAR, BLESSING SITE JUST FOR YOU