Phytonutrients are not only essential, but a must in today’s toxic environment.
Phytochemicals (plant components in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains) are physiologically active compounds. It is obvious to us that nothing is more fundamental to achieving good health than consuming healthy phytonutrients on a daily basis. It is a biological, non-negotiable imperative.
And phytonutrients, or phytochemicals, are exciting.
Recent research has enabled scientists to group phytonutrients into classes on the basis of similar protective functions as well as individual physical chemical characteristics of the molecules. They are the following:
The Terpenes are constituents of essential oils. They are found in green foods, soy products and grains. Terpenes comprise one of the largest classes of phytochemicals. The most intensely studied terpenes are carotenoids.
The terpenes function as antioxidants, protecting lipids, blood and other body fluids from assault by free radical oxygen species including singlet oxygen, hydroxyl, peroxide, and superoxide radicals. Terpenoids are dispersed widely throughout the plant kingdom, protecting plants from the same reactive oxygen species that attack human cells.
This terpene subclass consists of bright yellow, orange and red plant pigments found in vegetables such as tomatoes, parsley, oranges, pink grapefruit, spinach, and red palm oil. There are more than 600 naturally occurring carotenoids. Fewer that 10% have Vitamin A activity. Amongst the carotenes, only alpha, beta, and epsilon carotenes possess vitamin A activity. Beta-carotene is the most active.
The above-mentioned carotenes, along with gamma carotene and the carotenoids lycopene and lutein, which do not convert to Vitamin A, seem to offer protection against lung, colorectal, breast, uterine and prostate cancers. Carotenes are tissue specific in their protection.
Overall protective effects are therefore greater when all carotenes are taken together. Carotenes enhance immune response and protect skin cells against UV radiation. They spare the glutathione Phase II detoxification enzymes in the liver that we rely on to safely eliminate pollutants and toxins from the body.
This terpene subclass is found in citrus fruit peels, appears to be specifically directed to protection of lung tissue. It helps in clearing congestive mucus from the lungs of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In animal studies, results suggest that the chemotherapeutic activity of limonoids can be attributed to induction of both Phase I and Phase II detoxification enzymes in the liver.
Although green and yellow vegetables contain significant amounts, their seeds concentrate the sterols. Phytosterols compete with dietary cholesterol for uptake in the intestines. They have demonstrated the ability to block the uptake of cholesterol and facilitate its excretion from the body.
These phytochemicals comprise a large class that has been the subject of extensive research as a disease preventative. Phenols protect plants from oxidative damage and perform the same function for humans. Blue, blue-red and violet colorations seen in berries, grapes and purple eggplant are due to their phenolic content. Wild blueberries for example are exceptionally high in a diversity and quantity phenolic anthocyanidins and are a dark blue-red in color. One outstanding phytonutrient feature of phenols is their ability to block specific enzymes that cause inflammation. They modify inflammatory prostaglandin pathways and thereby protect platelets from clumping.
This phenol subclass comprises over 1500 members—flavones (flavonoid found in chamomile), flavonals (quercetin, rutin, ginkgoflavon glycosides), and flavanones (hesperidin, silybin).
The biologic activities of flavonoids include action against allergies, inflammation, free radicals, hepato-toxins, platelet aggregation, microbes, ulcers, viruses and tumors.
Anthocyanidins, a subclass of flavonoids, provide cross-links or bridges that connect and strengthen the intertwined strands of collagen protein. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, making up soft tissues, tendons, ligaments and bone matrix. Its great tensile strength depends on preservation of its cross links.
Anthocyanidins are water-soluble and therefore scavenge free radicals they encounter in tissue fluids. This powerful ability is especially beneficial for athletes and others who exercise, because heavy exercise generates large amounts of free radicals.
The Isoflavones, the phenolic subclass comes from beans and other legumes. They block enzymes that promote tumor growth. Best-known isoflavones are genistein and daidzein found in soy products. Cultures who consume traditional diets rich in soy foods rarely experience breast, uterine and prostate cancers.
This phytonutrient class is of sulfur containing molecules are present in garlic and cruciferous vegetables. Garlic is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial, facilitates detoxification of heavy metals, and is important in cardiovascular health. The cruciferous vegetables are foundational in protecting the cells against oxidation and carcinogens, increases the production of phase II enzymes (aids in liver detox) and protect stem cells, nerve cells, and endothelial cells.
A class of thiols that block enzymes that promotes tumor growth, particularly of the breast, liver, colon, lung, stomach and esophagus.
Indole complexes bind chemical carcinogens and activate detoxification, mostly in the gastrointestinal tract.
Isoprenoids neutralize free radicals in a unique way. They have a long carbon side chain, which they use to anchor themselves into fatty membranes. Any free radicals attempting to attach to membrane are quickly gab and passed off to other antioxidants.
Tocotrienols and Tocopherols: Appear to inhibit breast cancer.
Lipoic Acid and Ubiquinone
Lipoic acid and ubiquinoned are important antioxidants that work to extend the effects of other antioxidants. Lipoic acid is an efficient hydroxyl radical quencher, its sulfur bond being the reactive part of the molecule. In addition to hydroxyl radicals, it scavenges peroxyl, ascorbyl and chromanoxyl radicals. It protects both Vitamin E and Vitamin C. It also protects SOD, catalase, and glutathione.
A common theme when we overview the health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables is their collective abilities to neutralize free radicals and to reduce inflammation—critically important features for health to be attained in the toxic world we live in today.
The Therapeutic Foods Platform
Of the 15 different Therapeutic Foods there are many combinations one can come up with to perform as a platform for health. One that I have been suggesting of late is to regularly consume the following:
- Wild Blueberry Daily- 1 capsule a day
- Glucosinolates & Sulforaphanes- 2- 4 capsules a day
- Cranberry Pomegranate – 1-2 capsules a day
- No. 7 Systemic Booster- 1 teaspoon a day
With this combination you are adding to you diet the antioxidant/anti-inflammatory power of red pigment (pomegranate, cranberries, strawberry, raspberry, tart cherry, red beet), blue-purple pigment (blueberry), yellow pigment (pineapple), green pigment (kale, spinach, broccoli, apple), probiotics, fiber, and much more.
This platform can make the 5 to 9 veggies and fruits a day mandate become a reality within your lifestyle: You will reap the corresponding health benefits, while being protected from environmental harm.