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Another Nutrition Article, BUT Good

nudgie's picture
nudgie
Posts: 1483
Joined: Sep 2006

Hidden Chemicals Make Veggies Good For You
Newly Discovered Phytochemicals Aid Health
Shiloh Woolman, Staff writer

UPDATED: 11:26 am EST January 30, 2007

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Bugs Bunny has been munching carrots on the small screen since 1940. Emerging research shows there may be a reason Bugs aged so well: Carrots and their deeply-hued vegetable brethren fight disease.

So, what's up, Doc?

Diet Myths | Phyto Tips | Farmer's Market Secrets

Carrots contain a compound called falcarinol to protect themselves from disease, and the substance may help humans fight cancer, according to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Falcarinol is in a growing list of substances called phytochemicals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines phytochemicals as "natural plant compounds that may provide a variety of health benefits, (and) many of the bright colors in fruits and vegetables come from phytochemicals."

If calcium is a mineral and niacin is a vitamin, something like lycopene -- found in tomatoes -- is a phytochemical.

Fighting Cancer And More

Marilyn Wadum, director of Omaha Methodist Hospital's A Fare of the Heart program and a registered dietician, said she sits over the chart of phytochemicals with her cancer patients to create menus that support their health goals.

"We tailor a special food intake to help prevention of disease. I can't say I can turn around the disease process once it starts, but we can delay it or keep it at one level once it starts," she said.

But cancer is just one disease nutritionists believe these substances can prevent.

In addition to the falcarinol, carrots are loaded with beta-carotene, which may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Prebiotics and fructooligo-saccharides are found in onions and may help control blood pressure. The lutein in spinach and other dark greens may reduce the risk of macular degeneration.

"(Phytochemicals) have become items of interest as we strive to achieve optimal nutrition, rather than just trying to avoid nutritional deficiencies," said Glenda Woscyna, a registered dietician at the Nebraska Medical Center.

The research is promising, and scientists have barely scratched the surface.

"Research shows that phytochemicals have been present in foods for years, but they are a recent discovery," said Shelly Asplin, a dietitian for the Hy-Vee grocery chain. "New phytochemicals will continue to be revealed."

And you can pick a plant -- any plant -- and find a phytochemical.

For instance, scientists are currently examining a substance in garlic called organo-sulfur compound. It appears to reduce risk of cancer and coronary heart disease.

You've Heard Of Some Of These

Wadum said there are about 200 phytochemicals known so far, and the claims about some have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The most common include flavonoids, isoflavons, phytosterol and carotenoids. Some food companies have begun promoting the compounds in their advertising.

Wadum said that the deeper the color of a food, the more nutritious it is likely to be. Wadum calls them "functional foods."

"The foods provide a health benefit beyond, or in addition to, basic nutrition. What we've found was that they are so minute -- such a small element -- that now that we have technology that can examine and dissect all of our foods, we've found that in addition to the macronutrients, these are actually what we call the 'new nutrients,'" she said.

Phyto For Your Face

Phytochemicals may also be part of a beauty routine.

"Tocotrienols contain antioxidants that help prevent (low-density lipids) from changing into a form that is especially likely to clog arteries, and inhibits manufacture of cholesterol by the liver," according to HealthCheckSystems.com. "Lignans may function as antioxidants."

Both are found in whole grains.

In fact, the beauty biz is now pouring phytochemicals into its topical products, according to the January 2007 edition of Fitness Magazine. Flavanoids, which can be consumed in dark chocolate and red wine, are being added to an exfoliator from Shea Terra Organics. Raspberries and pomegranates will deliver ellagic acid -- thought to protect the structures in skin that keep it elastic -- and Red Water 24 Hour Balancing Face Cream will deliver it straight to your face for $30 a jar. Fitness reported that some doctors say delivering the chemicals both through the stomach and directly to the skin can double up for the best results.

Reaping Benefits As Easy As Colors, Numbers

How are you going to reap all of these benefits? The science isn't quite at the point where an individual with a history of breast cancer can design a diet based on phytochemicals to prevent it, but as the old saying goes: Variety is the key to life.

"The best way to ensure you ... get these healthy natural compounds is to eat foods with lots of color," Asplin said. "As a dietitian, I recommend choosing a new fruit or vegetable from the produce aisle each week. The more colors you have on your plate, the more phytochemicals you will consume."

Asplin said you retain most of the valuable nutrients in these foods when you eat them fresh, grilled or steamed. Avoid cooking vegetables in large amounts of water for extended periods, as nutrients leach into the water.

For more on where to find phytochemicals and how they prevent disease, visit the following links:

More On Phytochemicals:

Dole: Vegetables | Fruits | Definition (PDF)
Plants With Phytochemicals
Phytochemicals.info
Vitamins Of The Future?

More Food Links:

Your Calorie Needs
What's In That?
Vegetarian Living
Shopping For Organic Food
Buy Organic Food Cheap
Good Fats V. Bad Fats
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vinny3's picture
vinny3
Posts: 933
Joined: Jun 2006

Very interesting. But hey, I'm not going to waste any of that good red wine by smearing it on my face (oh perhaps that might happen accidently at the end of the evening).

Dick

scouty's picture
scouty
Posts: 1976
Joined: Apr 2004

Thanks for the good laugh Dick!!!!!

Very Good stuff Nudgie!!!!! Thanks for sharing. I think in the next 5-10 years the value of real foods will proved to be extremely healthful.

Lisa P.

CAMaura
Posts: 719
Joined: Feb 2005

Thanks for the great post!

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