Within plant foods are thousands of compounds that are taking the diet-disease connection to an exciting new level.Science call these compounds phytochemicals or phytonutrients, that means chemicals or nutrients found in plants.
They are there to help our garden survive and strive.
Potent sulfur compounds in garlic and unions, for instance, act as bug repellents to keep
the vegetables healthy. Other compounds protect plants from bacteria, viruses, and other
natural enemies. When we eat plant foods, these compounds protect us, too – not from
bugs but from the forces that wreak havoc in our bodies.
We have known for many years that we need vitamins and minerals from our food
to maintain good health, and to prevent malnutrition and diseases such as rickets and scurvy. But research revealed that the essential nutrients we all know, such as vitamin A and E, are just the beginning. See also my page: health-and-fitness
Most likely some of these previously unknown compounds will fight not only deficiency-type diseases such as anemia, but also age-related illnesses such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
And the research has only begun. Scientists are discovering more phytochemicals all
the time and also ways in which theses compounds fight disease.
Neutralizing Free Radicals
Each member of the large family of phytonutrients work indifferent ways.
However, their most common weapons against disease appear to be their antioxidant
Every day your body is under attack by harmful substances known as free radicals.
These are oxygen molecules who have lost an electron, due to pollution, sunlight,
stress, smoking, physical activity, and sunlight. As they attempt to regain there
missing electrons, they travel through your body and stealing electrons from your
body cells and sometimes from your DNA wherever they can.
Unless this chain reaction is stopped, the result is huge numbers of damaged
molecules and, over time, damage and disease.
For example, cholesterol is a useful and helpful substance. But when cholesterol
molecules are damaged by free radicals, they start to stick to the lining of
artery walls, causing hardened arteries and heart disease.
Another example: When free radicals attack molecules in the DNA of your body cells,
the genetic blueprint that tells your cells how to function, is damaged.
This can spark dangerous cell changes that lead to cancer and other diseases.
Even the aging process itself, scientists believe,is caused by free-radical damage.
The powerful antioxidants of phytonutrients in plants can literally save your life.
Essentially, they step between the free radicals and your body’s cells, offering up
their own electrons. When free radicals grab these “free” electrons, they become
stable again and do no further damage. Most phytonutrients are potent antioxidants.
Eliminating Toxic Wastes
Another way phytonutrients keep us healthy is by neutrolizing and flushing
toxic chemicals from our bodies before they make us sick. They do this by
manipulating enzymes known as phase-1 and phase-2 enzymes, explains Gary Stoner, PhD, professor and cancer researcher at Ohio State University in Columbus.
Phase-1 enzymes are like double agents. They are created by your body and are
important for normal cell function. But they also have the ability to work
against you. When cancer-causing toxins enter your system, phase-1 enzymes
help make them active. Phase-2 enzymes, on the other hand, are real good guys.
They seek out carcinogens and detoxify them before they can do damage.
When you eat broccoli or other vegetables, some of the phytoneutrients begin
stomping out the enemy phase-1 enzymes while increasing the production of
helper phase-2 enzymes. This process helps neutralize various cancer-causing
toxins that naturally accumulate in your body.
A third way in which phytoneutrients fend off disease is by keeping certain
hormones – most notably the female sex hormone estrogen – at healthy levels.
Estrogen is “good news” and “bad news” kind of hormone. When it’s produced at
normal levels, it helps control everything, from menstruation to childbirth.
At the same time, it helps keep artery-clogging cholesterol in check, thus
preventing heart disease. When estrogen levels rise, however, they can fuel
hormone-stimulated cancers like breast cancer and cancer of the ovaries,
according to researchers.
There are several ways in which phytoneutrients keep estrogen at proper levels.
For example, a class of phytonutrients called isoflavones is extremely similar
to natural estrogen. When we eat foods containing isoflavones, these faux
hormones bind to the body’s estrogen receptors, leaving the real hormone with
nowhere to go but out.
Although estrogen is often referred to as if it were one hormone, in fact
there are different forms. One kind of estrogen, called 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone,
has been linked to breast cancer. Another form, 2-hydroxyestrone, appears to
be harmless. Certain phytonutrients are able to increase levels of the harmless form of estrogen, while decreasing levels of the dangerous kind.
Eating Your Medicine
From the previously mentioned facts it shows that phytonutrients bring in a diversity of
powerful defences. As a matter of fact, their potential is staggering.
Scientists forecast that in the near future these compounds will be used for treating disease in the hospital and for prevention at home, as was the case with vitamins and minerals.
Till then, scientists emphases that the only way to get the phytonutrients your body needs
is to eat them as Mother Nature brings them. That means eating fruits and vegetables at least nine servings per day for good health.
Scientists learn new things every day about this huge class of compounds that the glass
of orange juice contains that you have for breakfast in the morning and in the site salad
If you like to know more about plant-based nutrition, visit: http://nutritionstudies.org/